Saturday, February 04, 2006

Should Women teach in the Church


He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately


The social movements of every age seem to be used by God to force Christians to re-examine (and clarify)their understanding of what the Scriptures teach. Painful as they may be, every such re-examination results ultimately in stronger and clearer statements on the subjects in question than the church has ever had before.

This is certainly the case in the matter of the woman's role in the church. The secular Women's Liberation movement is forcing church leaders everywhere to distinguish carefully between attitudes toward women derived from customs and traditions of the past (often strongly macho-dominated) and what the Bible actually teaches and what the early church actually did.

In the scope of this brief article it is not possible to answer all the questions which are being raised today. But we would like to examine the specific question being asked by many Christians today: Should a woman teach the Scriptures, and especially, should she teach men or when men are present? Read more...pdf

14 comments:

dinsy said...

Dave, this is really interesting, thanks.
Another gem from Ray Stedman.

It seems to me to be saying that a woman can, and should if so gifted, teach anyone who comes within her community, anything about (can I use the term) "the whole counsel of God", providing she does not teach anything she knows that her community elders have declared to be incorrect doctrine.

One would also hope that no man in the community would teach something which he knew to be against what the elders were agreed on. It's a good way to split a community, fast, and to cause hurt and damaged people.

I would think that the elders would have to be totally sure on their doctrine then, and able to justify it comletely from scripture, and answer all objections/misunderstandings that may arise from other scriptures. As usual, it puts the greatest obligation on the ones who have the greatest responsibility.

What happens though, when you have a question over which the eldership are not united, or which they have not yet formed their collective view? Does she follow her "favourite" elder's position, say whay she thinks as long as she adds that the question is open, or should she "remain silent"?

One would hope also that the eldership would be honest enough to admit it when there are issues where they are leaning towards a view but cannot be completly certain that it is correct. (This is what I think, but God has not told me for sure). I would think that in this case, this godly gifted woman should be able to teach her understanding if it differs from the elders. As long as she is honest about the situation. A discussion may then lead to clarification of the issue.

Can she say, for instance, "Well Dave says such and such, but I think so and so".

Yes? No?

Dave said...

I understand your question re the leadership...What happens though, when you have a question over which the eldership are not united, or which they have not yet formed their collective view?

To answer in the two parts, firstly I believe that an eldership/deaconate that is not united is not functioning as a biblical eldership, there must be unity, though this needs unpacking, as there are issues which we may perceive things differently, yet the outcome remains the same.
Secondly, we must always understand that we will be working (with the Spirit) towards a common understanding. If that had not been reached it would be unwise to teach on it knowing it may confuse and divide.

The last question, well it always depends on what the subject is and all these things can be open to discussion. If someone has a gift to teach then that gift must not be despised, but whoever has that gift (male or female) will always use that gift for the edification of all, if they do not, then they do not have that gift.

Anyone else want to pitch in?

Anonymous said...

Well dave you do pick um!!!
I've no idea who Ray Stedman is, not that it would make any difference, but I don't fully agree with him anyway.

First, when he refers to Galatians 3: 28 he uses this to back up his assertion that 'from the viewpoint of spiritual gifts in Christ there is neither male nor female.' But surely the context, something he bases his whole argument upon, is salvation and not gifts like teaching etc.. Of course eternal life is referred to as charismata Rom. 6: 23, but in Galatians the context is salvation not gift for ministry!!

Secondly, the comment about the fact that if someone's name comes first that means they are more important, well I'm not sure how exactly we know that? And I'mnot sure if Scripture doesn't produce some problems, I mean who's more important Elijah or Moses? read the transfiguration account of Mark and according to Stedman it must be Elijah cause he's mentioned first, but wait a minute Matthew counters no!! It's Moses since I put his name first cp. Mt 17: 3 and Mk. 9: 4. Doesn't seem to hold much water unless we start adding subclauses to a foundationless presupposition!!

Thirdly, if Paul says that he forbids a woman to teach or have authority over a man then why are we trying to reinterpret Paul to stisfy Eve wanting to be Adam? Why not just read Paul. Does he give room for women teaching? Of course. In the verse quoted the verb to teach is in the present tense continuous. So Paul is saying I forbid a woman to be continually teaching, hence hold a teaching office so to speak. That still allows for now and again a woman to teach but always coming under authority.

Blessings,
Kenny

Dave said...

Thanks Kenny, before I start I must tell you that the new STL sale list is out, will send you a copy if you want one.

Ray Stedman is pretty sound (he has since passed away) but I have to agree that the Gal 3:28 is in the context of salvation and not spiritual gifts. It would also appear that the 'charismata' appear to be gender inclusive, it is a possible different argument in respect to the gifts in Eph 4:11 given by Christ in 4:8, the use of 'gifts' here is part of a further discussion on how Paul used the Psalm...but yep I agree, Gal 3:28 is not about 'spiritual gifts'.
I am not sure he bases his argument on this verse, or on this presupposition, was not sure which you meant, I need to read it again.

Whose name comes where is of no import, except maybe in the genealogies, so I would agree with you, I don't think he builds anything on it, it is clear that both of them taught Apollos, but this is in line with what Stedman says in Conclusion 2, as they worked as husband and wife.

Not sure about your third point, I agree with you, but I think the article does as well. This is the position I hold in Tapestry, if a woman (or anyone) has a gift to teach then who am I to deny that gift, Yet the role of under shepherd has been given to me and in that role I would defend the locus of teaching to that which has been 'handed down'.

I think his conclusions are supportable and workable, the question of authority is different. Often this gender debate fails to seperate the two, though what do we do with Eph 4:11 in respect to women operating as prophets and evangelists. Mind you if prophecy has ceased that solves that one. But can we have women evangelists?

Blessings,
Dave

Anonymous said...

Will look forward to getting STL list as long as Gillian doesn't open letter!!!

You've asked a really good question concerning Ephesians 4:11. What do we make of it? Firstly apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastors and teachers what does this list have in common? For one thing every office is in the masculine tense. Does that mean God gave these offices to men? Why not??

Stedman says that since Priscilla is listed first that means that she was the more capable and gifted teacher!! But how do we know that? It seems as if Stedman has an agenda(as we all do) that he is trying to work towards!!

Do you know the funny thing about language? (Been reading Peterson) In the greek tyou can have active, passive but also middle. Active is what we do, passive is what is done to us. Middle is us taking part in an action begunn by another. If the language of God id in the passive then all we need do is find out what He's doing and do that with Him. If he says concerning teaching, men will hold the office of teacher why must we question? Is it because our language,(well english) has no conception of the middle tense? Hope this makes some sense, read this tonight and thought it was astounding stuff, it's a way of looking not just at this subjest but at our entire
theological structures!!!!

In the whole subject of ministry are we prepared to answer whether or not we have an existing agenda? I've been brought up in a confused state spiritually... strict brethren, baptist, charismatic, presbyterian, congregational, baptist, and now grace baptist pastor. Converted throuhg the preaching of a proclaimed woman prophet from Canada. Do I have a hidden agenda? Most probably, yet I'm not sure where to start looking? But I think that I'd be willing to bow to Scripture!! Come what may!!

But on Stedman conclusion number 2. If a woman teaches according to wha the elders agree with then that's okay etc.. That means that if a woman were to agree to say the Westminster confession and swear top teach accordingly then okay!! So then women ministers are fine in say COS or COE!!

Also since when has it been absurd to say that someone is not allowed to teach since they know enough?? Again conclusion 2. Is this really absurd?

Kenny

Dave said...

STL arriving in plain brown envelope marked 'not a book sale list'

Ref Eph 4:11, how do we reconcile the mention of female prophets in Acts 21:9, also Anna in Luke 2:36,was this a thing specifically within Lukes writing?

Is the office of evangelist a male only role, if so then how do we square that with evangelist or apostle in the context of misiionary work

i agree there is nothing in the text to suggest Pris was the more gifted teacher

The Peterson thing is good, yet we then have the proble m of people interpreting what God is doing in their own way (agenda's again)

Is that in his book 'unecessary pastor' if so what page?

Another thing that interests me is why we always let women teach Sunday School, when does a male child become a man (13)? (18)? So when should women stop teaching in that context - church practice is most unbiblical!

With regard to the WCF, that is not quite the same, as the WCF is not her authority, it is a document, all (male and female) should submit under their local eldership, those who have care for the souls, the WCF long ceased having care for anyone's soul. Even if your diocese or presbytery rule one way or another, it is those who have care over the flock directly that apply the scriptures within the local situation. In Acts 6 we see the seven Spirit filled men who take the pastoral (care) role, the apostles minister the word.

Agreed on the absurd bit, I know some people who know an awful lot, yet I would not let them teach - good spot

Gillian said...

Does this mean Alistair and Hugh will be taking Sunday School from now on?

Dave said...

Sorry, thats a no for Ali and Hugh, what I was meaning was if what age does a boy become a man. I know one church where the mid teens (15yr olds) are taught by women, yet this church will not allow women teachers. The problem is in some cultures these boys would be classed as men, so are the Scriptures to be culturally conditioned?
Ultimately this question is for local dialogue, what I mean is what a neighbouring pastor does is nothing to do with me, I have a pastoral/teaching responsibility for the people God has called me to.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave, sorry about delayed response, and glad to see that you've clearly marked that envelope in an unconspicuous fashion!! She'll suspect nothing.

Well here we go... as regarding Acts 21: 9 and philips daughters what we are told is they prophesied, doe that naturally infer that they were prophets? We have to say, not neccesarily unless we're going to start arguing from silence! Do I believe that women prophesied, of course I do, I think that 1 Corinthians seems to suggest as much but what it also makes clear is that when it comes to the testing/discerning of prophecies (1 Cor. 14: 29-35) women were to keep silent. Also Joels prophecy picked up by Peter specifically saya that your daughters will prophecy!! But it still doesn't mean that because someone prophecies they are a prophet. I believe that someone can prophecy from time to time and yet still not hold the office of prophet!! Regarding Anna she was a prophet, so was deborah... but under the New covenant how named prophets are female? How many named evangelists are female? How many apostles etc.?

As for what we make of evangelists apostles etc in the missionary scene, I'm assuming you're meaning contemporary, surely the first port of call is well what does the bible say and then these things are then interpreted. Many will say that there female pastors are doing a great work so it must be okay? But this is interpreting Scripture in an erroneous fashion.


The question surrounding woman and the position/role of teacher must be settled from a purely biblical stance? Or at the very least deduced from scripture. And I reckon that you hit the nail on the head when you said church practise is most unbiblical.


Again though this takes us back to the middle voice (the book is called 'The Contemplative Pastor, p.103-105), we're not to interpret the Word of God according to our agenda(that would be active) nor are we to just ignore it(that would be passive) rather we're to ask God what it says in this/every instance and simply do that. It's as if God sys this is how I want church done so we say okay and work together with Him. So you see I think that your spot on the money with your comment about most church practises.

Traditionally most churches have abused womans position and relegated them to the kitchen or something, not really the way that Jesus seemed to conduct ministry. Nowadays some movements countering this have swung to far in the other direction as coutermovements always tend to do, hence female liberation theology etc.. The question is how does God want that crown of His creation namely woman to function in His church. If one were to say well not in the role of teacher why would we argue?

Do women have gifts of teaching, I think that Paul thought so, how else could the older teach the younger. And over the years that possesion of a gift might give rise to the cry 'now i want to teach the men' so perhaps 1 Timothy 2: 12 was his way of answering what would arise latter.

What do you think?
Kenny

Dave said...

Just been postin a real important one about Man United, but to return to this debate.

I understand all the points you make, and I am going to really annoy you by not answering the biblical ones!! Sorry, well a bit sorry!

what do you make of the fact that 'every' (in my experienec) church and every believer never lives up to 'women can't teach' in practice ( I understand that some organisations like the FP's and probably Grace Baptists do). What about all the books that women have written, is that not teaching (you may not have any books by women on your shelf) What about women at conferences who teach? You know that HTC allowed women students and women teachers, whilst the two senior lecturers opposed women in teaching roles within their own denominations, did this make HTC invalid in its calling. I know LTS, only allows men, and I think the Grace Baptists are to be admired for their consistency. It is hypocrisy that is my gripe, in that way I can understand that within your fellowship this is your practice, within Tapestry it is not, if a woman had a gift to teach then I would use that gift within the fellowship, but she would have to go through a deep testing to see if that were a gift and calling, and to make sure she was not a wolf (wolfess), but I assure you that any man would also face the same rigorous testing, the pulpit (or centre of teaching) would remain mine as that is where the Lord has called me, I stand responsible to this flock for life!
I know this is slightly away from you were driving at, but so often men are given eldership roles who should never be elders, so all I seek is consistency.

For me the gender issue is a serious part of the teaching ministry, yet it is only a part, I wish as many books had been written about the other qualities.

The CofS and the CofE have had many discussions and wrote many articles on this subject, not many are written about 'should ungodly men be elders'.
You know where I am coming from, so in conclusion, if a woman presented at our church with a gift to teach then I would address that issue at that point on my understanding of Scripture at that time. Right now there are no women who are presenting as wanting to teach.

I would be interested to know when you think men should take over the Sunday School teaching of young teens? When does a male child become a man, biblically, not culturally?

This well may lead to the posistion that Sunday Schools (being a modern thing)are not biblical as well.


Don't know what I have written and can't be bothered checking it so any mistakes are simply that, mistakes.

Anonymous said...

No wonder you didn't check for errors it was written at 106am, nice to know that when I was tucked up under duvet my brother in the Lord was thinking of my welfare!!

was tempted to look at man u video but still on dial up so would probably still be waiting tomorrow!!

I think that you question about when does a male child become a man is crucial to this issue. But i think it probably needs rewording, something like 'When does a male child ever become a man??'

Maybe the problem is the distinct shortage of 'Men' by that I mean mature believers in Christ who happen to be male! Perhaps the church has spawned a generation or two, three, four.. which is lacking men!! Perhasp in their place we have grown male children who are like Barak!! Not willing to move to Mount Tabor unless Deborah goes with them. Judges 4: 8. Even then she told him he would receieve no glory for the Lor had given any hope of that into the hands of another woman, namely Jael!!

Do I look at Deborah and think oh she upsets my view of the place of women in the ministry etc.. Not at all, but i do look at Barak and see that he never really showed himself as a man, hence Deborah was so necessary, and Jael!! If the male children will not tread the path of manhood then perhaps the Lord will give the honour to a woman.

Do we have books and teaching falling from the lips of godly Christian women, not girls? Yes I believe we do i.e Jackie Pulinger etc. But do you know what she said, or rather asked (was listening to her cd on ministry with the poor)? She asked where were the men!! Her point seemed to be the women are doing it because the male grown up children won't mature and show themselves as men!!!

Deborah and Jael proved a blessing to the people of God, Israel but do they also stand as a judgement upon the male children?

Blessings
Kenny.

Dave said...

Don't bother with the Man U vid, its just them scoring goals, a pretty common occurence
The issue about male child age is simply because many women teach men in Sunday School, even in the most biblical churches.

Your point about men being immature begs the question, 'can women teach them' because they are just babes in understanding

Jackie Pullinger is pro women teaching, if she were not she would decline to speak at mixed gender events, and all her tapes would carry the warning 'Men do not listen - woman teaching'

If we hold to male only teaching then we must keep it across the board.

Sorry to be brief, tea is ready...

Peace
Dave

Anonymous said...

I whole heartedly agree, except for the man u point, he he!!

Yup we do need to be consistent, but to what? What is the rule, the standard? Who decides? Does it depend upon someones gift? Someone's willingness? The decision of a church? Decision of a pastor? A presbytery? 75% of a membership role?

Or do we think that perhaps sola scriptura? What is our basis of authority? So if the scriptures were to say 'I forbid a woman to teach... a man.' wouldn't that settle the matter. Or is sola scriptura dated?

Written by a man who's sons just redecorated the carpet with semi-digested food, kids!!!!!

Dave said...

Sorry for the slow response, and yep I'm all for Scripture alone, but I believe that interpretation has a lot to do with it. This is too big a subject to deal with now as obeying this scripture alone puts in a precarious position, for if we obey one we must obey all, but then again it is not a pick and mix of what we choose to obey.

The sheer fact that we have denominations makes the NT partially alien for it was written without a knowledge of the divisions we have, the fact that we have Sunday schools is also another wierd one.
Churches that adhere to the Reg Principle have Sunday schools that are a modern phenomenon.

We are so far from NT church practice in 2005 that it has become a pick and mix. So we obey as we can, and for Tapestry we do not need to make a decision on women teaching, it does not form part of our statement of faith, and nor should it.
The early church creeds failed to include it, and I have just scoured a heap of them,

Scripture is certainly not dated, the word is living and active, how we interpret this will always be under debate.

So praise God for one thing, we (I) have had a revelation as to what Sunday School should be...I am about to post about it.

 

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