29 November 2012

Forum on female commentators, theologians, writers

by Dan Phillips

Scripture is clear: there is no such thing as a female pastor under Christ's Lordship. Any woman who aspires to leadership over men in the church is eo ipso disqualified, if only on the grounds that she does not bow the knee to Christ as Lord in terms of her sexuality, and this itself is a disqualifying vice.

So what about female seminary professors? Female commentators? Female theologians, academics, writers?

A well-regarded commentary on Peter is by Karen Jobes. Jobes has also written on Esther, among other things. Tyndale OTC volumes on Daniel and 1-2 Samuel  were by Joyce Baldwin. One of the good books on male/female issues was written by Susan Foh.

I'm currently working through a book of devotions on the Greek New Testament, for which I am writing a review. Some of the contributors are female, one of them a hyphenated Notre Dame grad who's a prof in what at least once was an evangelical seminary.

Now, I'll be up-front with you. If I was out of town and visited a church that had a promising name, and a woman stood up to preach posing as a pastor, I'd likely quietly walk out. I wouldn't find it worshipful to sit and watch her shake her fist in Christ's face, and I wouldn't want to harm her by fostering her illusion.

But these are books, and complementarians read and use them. And these are seminary classes in professedly Evangelical institutions. So what's the difference? Is reading a commentary, or sitting under pastoral preparatory classes taught by a woman different from listening to a sermon by a woman? How? Is it because they aren't in church?

Should we care about the agendas of the women who write these books, teach these courses? Should we make it a point to inquire what they are attempting to accomplish in their careers? Should we care whether they are working towards erasing resistance to female pastors? Are we aiding those efforts by using those resources? Are we safe in assuming that all these and other female Christian writers are happy, Godly mothers, who are subordinate to their husbands as to Christ, and wouldn't dream of preaching or teaching a class with men in it?

These aren't meant as "trick" or loaded questions. I don't have an airtight, all-encompassing answer. Worse, I can't think of any substantial discussion I've ever seen on the topic, though at-least-nominally evangelical female writers and professors seem to be proliferating.

When I was at seminary, it was controversial. Our seminary had fairly recently begun admitting women to the MDiv program. An MDiv is generally perceived as a professional degree for pastors. The argument was that these women were pastors' wives and teachers of women; and why shouldn't they have the benefit of the best education?

One of my fellow-profs' off-the-record response was, "That's like handing someone a loaded pistol, and telling him never, ever to shoot it."

I'm wondering what the brain trust thinks about it, or what resources you've found that I haven't yet seen.

Dan Phillips's signature


DJP said...

If it accomplishes nothing else, at least we might find out whether the Gospel-hating, Roman Catholic, vegetarian, racist one-star hater is also an egalitarian. So there's that.

Adam Whitley said...

The best resource for this discussion is the book "A Year of Biblical Womanhood". Great stories and a fantastic exposition of historical, Biblical roles for women. I highly recommend it!

Zack Skrip said...

Adam: Hardy har har har.

DJP: That is a tough issue. I believe Paul was writing about authority in the church, the one thing Christ has said will go into eternity. Honestly, an argument that says women can't write books on a religious topic could just as easily be made for them not writing books on any topic.

There could be some other motive, or it could be that God has blessed her with a mind for Hebrew or Greek and good writing skills.

To allow for a female pastor would be to lie about the nature of Christ and the church. To allow for a female commentator would do no such thing. Paul didn't write that Christ is like a commentator and the church is like a reader.

Thanks for asking this question. I'm looking forward to other responses as this is something that I've thought about before. I hope to be challenged in my thinking.

DJP said...

Oh my gosh, surely you're joking, Adam.

DJP said...

An email has directed me to a thoughtful and helpful essay by Deborah Forteza and Kevin Bauder, Suffering Women to Learn?

Tom Chantry said...


I have no substantial argument to offer on this subject, because it seems self-evident to me that the answer is that women teaching and writing in ministerial functions is simply wrong, whether inside or outside the church. I honestly cannot conceive of how anyone with a biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood could see otherwise. And I say this as someone with no difficulty at all serving under women as bosses or voting for women for political office. Ministerial authority is different, and that seems obvious to me. I would go so far as to say that not only is it wrong to admit women into MDiv programs, they really should not be in a seminary classroom. And no, I will offer no substantial argument for that position, because I think it is so self-evident that if you don't see it, you don't need a better argument, you need to understand manhood and womanhood according to the Scripture, and you clearly don't.

There you go, DJP. Now everyone can hate me and be grateful to you for stating the question so much more kindly. You're welcome.

Steve Drake said...

A topic that if commented on could easily label one as misogynist :-)

A sticky widget to be sure. But why?
It's biblical.

It goes back to the Fall in Gen. 3. Paul picks this up in 2 Cor. 11:3 and 1 Tim. 2:14. And no, (to cut off the comments that I'm sure will follow from the misogynist labelers)it doesn't mean that women are inferior to men, less smart or intellectually acute, or in any way second class citizens.

Anonymous said...

It's not new. I've got a book by Ada Habershon on types. She was a friend of Spurgeon's.

I think we can safely say that a seminary is not a church so a professor is not a pastor. So the Scriptures do not directly forbid it.

And the Scriptures certainly permitted a woman to prophesy, or Paul made a mess in I Corinthians 11, and to exercise civil authority in some sense, or Deborah was an accident. So it would be hard to make the case that the Scriptural commands forbid any leadership role outside of the church.

The danger is that it is teaching, and I Tim. 2 does not just speak about women pastors, but women teaching. I'm a lot more comfortable with the book than the professor. The book is under authority -- the pastor can use it, evaluate it, warn against problems, etc. But no one in authority over the woman professor is watching everything she says.

My concern there is that I Tim. 2 makes part of its case on a woman being more vulnerable to deception. Seems like their is no real safeguard against that with the woman professor, while their is with the woman author.

So while I'd be hesitant to say the Scripture absolutely forbids or permits either one, I'm dubious about one and ok with the other.

The best solution is not to be a seminary administrator and then you don't have to decide at all, you can just snipe from the Internet!

R.C. said...

The problem comes when we try to fit our unbiblical ideas into biblical categories, then try to be biblical. It won't work until we get rid of the unbiblical ideas. Shouldn't it tell us something, indeed something important, telling, even convicting, that the Bible says absolutely nothing at all about seminary, and yet it is so central to how we operate in the church?

Scott Shaffer said...

I typically won't read commentaries, or works of theology or ministry written by women. I know some would say that's misogynistic, narrow minded, and that it is to my detriment. In my opinion, scripture equates teaching with authority and to limit that restriction to just Sunday morning worship misses the point.

Having said that, I don't think I'd go as far as Chantry in saying that women shouldn't even be sitting in a seminary classroom. It's nice to dismiss any opposing view by stating that your argument is self evident, sort of like saying, "God told me to..." You know, it just stifles all discussion. Back to women in seminary classes: what about a woman who wants to devote her life to teaching children or other women? In what way does her presence rise to the level of teaching and exerting authority over men?

Tom Chantry said...

Saying "God told me," is demonstrably different from saying, "The Scriptural position of men and women is clear." Perhaps I should have added, "No one is going to sufficiently demonstrate an entire philosophy of gender interaction according to the whole word of God in a blog meta."

DJP said...

So, it's settled.

One-star hater is a Gospel-hating, Roman Catholic, vegetarian, racist egalitarian.

DJP said...

R. C., perhaps you'd agree with the thoughts I offered here.

Steve Drake said...

@Scott Shaffer,
"...what about a woman who wants to devote her life to teaching children or other women?"

Valid in some respects I think, but Paul's admonition for a woman to receive instruction at home from her husband (can't find the verse right now) should be considered as well, right?

rockstarkp said...

I've been thinking about this of late too, because I just heard Nancy Guthrie at a Conference, and I learned a lot from her.
I'm very torn on this issue at the moment.

Nash Equilibrium said...

My only commentary is that my fear is this meta will be closed down eventually, strictly because of the "third rail" nature of the subject! Please everyone, prove me wrong!

R.C. said...

Well, your older piece started out thoughtful, careful, sagacious, but then near the end it got all awesome sauce with the pic of Fred Gwynn. "Did you say 'utes'"? Oh, and by the by, if all pastors were men, and all pastors in training were trained by pastors, we'd not have to worry about lady seminary profs

Scott Shaffer said...


Thanks for the quick response.

It looks like we have a different view on the role of women as students. What scripture does tell us is that a woman shouldn't teach a man, but that she should learn in silence and save her questions for her husband. Of course, that's what we see in the worship hour: Male pastors teaching the entire flock, both male and female, the women learning in all submission. On the surface, it seems that if this is appropriate for the primary teaching venue described in the NT, it would also apply to a seminary.

No need to reply if the blog meta isn't the best forum for this discussion. As Dan originally posted, I'm looking for papers, sermons, or books that adequately deal with this issue.

Larry said...

1 Tim 2:11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.
12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Anonymous said...

I learn so much from Mary Kassian, Nancy Leigh DeMoss and many more. If I listen or read their material I make sure they are solid in their theology and that they speak to women only.

I was one of those ladies who tried to have a major in Bible at Liberty. YEARS ago..like 17 or so, I was told to move along and major in something else. There is nothing I could do in ministry as a woman with a Bible major. I really at that time just wanted to study the Bible more...not to be a speaker or writer, etc. I have no idea where LU stands on that now as they've moved so far from where they were when I was there. I was instructed well at the time and I am thankful.

Now, I learn on my own, from my husband and the elder's at my church.

Cathy M. said...

IMHO, a man shouldn't take a theology class with a female instructor. He may benefit from being instructed in other subjects by woman in seminary.

I don't see why a woman couldn't teach Greek, Hebrew, Church History, sermon downloading... ( I really don't know what subjects are common in seminary, that last one is just a suspicion of mine.)

Linda said...

Women should not teach men,, that is unless SHE is prudence and wisdom.

Christ is the model not just for men, but for women as well. In a non-church, non-family environment, the only authority is the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. In this arena, women are equal to men in sharing the things revealed in God's Word.

Bill Gnade said...

Mr. Phillips,

You raise a question I've often struggled with, and this despite the fact Paul's language seems rather unambiguous.

αὐθεντέω is an interesting word in 1 Tim 2:12. I thank you for bringing me back into that passage; what αὐθεντέω means is obviously key to our understanding.

But I wonder if we have any devices to determine precisely when a woman is being either un-submissive or authoritarian (over a man). What signs, so to speak, or what cues, are we to look for? How can we tell when a woman is -- forgive the expression -- "out of line"? Is there a way to measure or quantify it? Is there an obvious line that is crossed that we all can see?

And though I am not making this example prescriptive, Mary's interaction with Jesus is interesting at the Cana wedding. Prima facie, at least, it looks like she is exercising authority over our Lord; she tells him something about his ministry that he seems to discount. Though Jesus appears to rebuke his mother, she disregards this thoroughly, telling the servants to do whatever Jesus says. She seems to believe his time HAS COME, and he appears not to know this. (A typical mother with her dubious, diffident and stubborn son?)

I am not, again, suggesting anything more than the difficulty we might have in detecting αὐθεντέω; in determining when a woman is assuming a leadership role that is not permitted by Paul.

Lastly, though I do not know his final verdict on the matter of αὐθεντέω, the following excerpt from Philip Barton Payne's book Man and Woman: One In Christ is interesting. It can be read here. (You can scroll through about 14 pages of Payne's text.)

My observation is that the feminization of the pulpit and episcopacy in various denominations has led to theology so ridiculously liberal that such denominations are irrelevant (and begging for membership). The Episcopal Church, for example, has become nothing more than a Unitarian Church with a fetish for vestments. It seems that, if you really want to empty the pews, put women in the pulpits. Not always, not everywhere. But surely there seems a quantifiable trend toward oblivion when women are given the pulpit.

Anyhow, God bless.

Sonja said...

What about Acts 18:26? Can a contemporary example be gleaned from Priscilla in some way?

DJP said...

Yes, Sonja, I think Priscilla's example is helpful, if not all-answering. Priscilla and her husband talking Bible and corrective theology with Apollos, no problem. Priscilla mounting a pulpit and presenting a sermon on theology in church, problem.

So to which is a commentary, or a seminary class, or a professorship in a seminary, more analogous?

Zack Skrip said...

I would disagree with Mr. Chantry on the entrance of women into seminary (as students) and writing books on biblical topics is the same as ministerial authority. My ecclesiology, as a baptist, says that my elders have ministerial authority over me, and yours don't. In this particular case, the women seminary student is neither my elder, nor any elder at all.

I don't see a prohibition in Scripture for in depth, outsourced, biblical education for women. Of course that type of education could be done out of a desire to undermine biblical authority or her husband's authority, but as the Bible teaches us, the heart is where sin starts. I don't think this particular action is malum in se.

Mr Chantry, how would you respond to the question posed for you about a women wanting to learn for the sake of teaching other women or children?

Thanks for your contributions.

Zack Skrip said...


Kerry James Allen said...

Just one main thought. Some have commented on the input of "smart" women. That shouldn't even be part of the discussion. There have been plenty of smart male pastors who have committed adultery and/or are divorced, or whose family lives are a disaster. Does the IQ and potential contribution overshadow everything else? And there are undoubtedly many women who have higher IQs than their male pastors. Again, how does "smart" enter into this?

DJP said...

Some commenters, almost by their very presence (let alone comments), lower the collective IQ of a meta dramatically.

But then when someone like Zack appropriately deploys malum in se... ahhhh, I almost can feel my cap and gown again...

Rhology said...

"That's like handing someone a loaded pistol, and telling him never, ever to shoot it."

She can shoot it at a shooting range. But she can't shoot it in war.
That's carrying the analogy where it needs to go.

Sonja said...

A woman in the pulpit causes me to tremble. I have never sought out women teachers but I have come across some women who are insightful, gifted teachers who I value. I really don't think "oh, this is a woman" so I simply appreciate and ponder what they have written be it commentary or opinion.

Bill Gnade said...

Mr. Phillips,

Forgive me. You've brought something to mind that I've long forgotten.

Do you know Elisabeth Elliot at all? She was the writer-in-residence at Gordon College in the early 1980s; her brother, Tom Howard, was sort of a rock star on campus in the English department (he was a C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams expert). Both were raised in evangelicalism; both were staunchly conservative. She was the wife of Jim Elliot, one of several missionaries murdered in the Amazon back in the day.

Anyhow, she used to speak in chapel (we had 3 chapels/week) and, man, when she spoke, she ripped up the place. She took no prisoners; she said things about premarital sex, gender roles, biblical headship, and homosexuality with an authority and strength not seen in most men. The campus buzzed after she spoke; kids would be arguing on the sidewalks outside the chapel. She said stuff most men wouldn't dare say. It was awesome.

Who had a problem with her? Generally not those who would oppose female pastors and priests (she and her brother both opposed the ordination of women). The folks who had a problem with her were the social gospel folks, and those who took a more progressive view of gender and sex.

I share this because, though I may have been a 21-year-old man my senior year at Gordon, Mrs. Elliot really was an authority over me. She had experience and knowledge as a woman of God I could not have had as a man of such an age; and she really did speak with conviction and authority. She was so biblically centered it was stupid; she didn't flinch in the slightest. Seriously, she was one of the strongest characters in the Faith I've ever met.

I know this doesn't advance the discussion, really. It just brought to mind a woman whose influence on me was profound. (Anther woman who inspired me was the feisty and fearless Wycliffe translator, Marilyn Laszlo.)

Sadly, Mrs. Elliot is profoundly ill with Alzheimer's.

Does this mean I believe women ought to be ordained? Not in the least.

Just thought you'd enjoy the anecdote.

Rachael Starke said...

In God's sovereignty, my day is so full of overseeing a house remodel, grad. school study and preparing to teach at our church's single womens' retreat that I can't comment more for now than to say:

Rhology and Zack Skrip FTW

and to ask two questions of those who want to build such an impenetrable wall around the idea of women teaching men:

1. When Solomon admonishes his son in Proverbs 1:8 not to forsake his mother's teaching, how old is the son, and what does (or might, or should) the mother's teaching comprise?

2. In Titus 2:4, what does this training to love husbands and children entail? Specifically - what are the characteristics of this love that women need training in?

Tom said...

It seems to me that a commentary would likely go under the heading of "talking corrective theology with Apollos," due to the fact that while it is a public thing, it is usually used privately--sort as an adjunct to Bible study, as it were.
As to the seminary question--that's a tad bit more difficult, the reason being that it is not a matter of private teaching, but is instead public. On the other hand, it seems like 1 Timothy 2 is primarily about how to run things within a church, seeing as chapter three starts talking about deacons and overseers.
All of this being said, however, it does not appear that women's silence within the church extends beyond teaching doctrine. (I could be wrong here) In other words, female church administration professor? No problem. Female Greek professor? I don't think there's an issue there. Female theology professor? That's where it starts getting dicey.

DJP said...

For those keeping score at home, this is not banned-just-Tom, it's some-other-just-Tom.

Tom Chantry said...

Scott, Zack, et al (...which will be my total contribution to the Latin here today...),

I desire to understand health and the human body. It would be beneficial to me. I want to understand the chemistry of the human body to a certain degree - particularly how various medications interact within the body - because I have to oversee the medications prescribed to my kids. Since becoming a Cub Scout leader it has occurred to me that I ought to refresh my decades-old training in First Aid.

So I think I'll enroll in the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Anyone see a problem with that?

Tom Chantry said...

I thought just-Tom seemed remarkably sane today!

Rachael Starke said...

Let the record show that Tom Chantry can't see why children might benefit from being cared for and taught by a mother who went to medical school.

Tom Chantry said...


False. Never said that.

Kerry James Allen said...

On another train of thought here, does the status of the woman have anything to do with these arguments, i.e. is she single or married? 1 Corinthians 7:34. I wonder how a married woman who seeks to excel as a wife and mother would even have time or inclination to pursue these other venues. Seems like something would have to suffer and it would probably be the husband and kids.

Rhology said...

Sonja said:
I simply appreciate and ponder what they have written be it commentary or opinion.

Yes, that's true, but it's also irrelevant to the question whether she should be teaching in the first place.

Tobias said...

@Bill Gnade
It seems to me the trip toward oblivion for such a church begins long before they invite a woman to the pulpit. There must have been significant travel down that road for them to even consider a woman for the pulpit.

Michael Coughlin said...

Great discussion.

I am not sure if I'll be helpful, but I'll add to the mix. Although I've decided to split my comments.

1. After I was first saved and I understood about women teachers, I downloaded a teaching series about Israel that was taught by a woman. I confirmed that when it was taught, she had taught only women, but the mp3's were available and I wanted to learn what was taught.

I felt no conviction at the time; not that that makes it right, but even looking back, I'd have no problem listening to a teaching by a woman. In fact, I like to get an idea of some of what popular women teachers teach because they influence my wife.

So I think the fact that I wasn't submitting to this woman's authority has something to do with it.

Let it be understood that my conviction about actually being under a woman teacher was so strong it was one of the primary reasons I left the "church" I was attending where I heard the gospel and was saved.

Scott Shaffer said...

Anyone see a problem with that?

Perhaps. If I play along with your analogy I suppose you could mean that 1) medical school is overkill for what she'll actually be doing and that she could learn the necessary skills elsewhere or 2) her desire doesn't automatically mean she's qualified, or 3) something else I haven't thought of, but I'm more interested in a biblical argument for why a woman has no place in a seminary class.

Chris said...

I thought gas on the fire was "and I wouldn't want to harm her by fostering her illusion."

Jesus didn't seem to mind allowing women to enlighten men with theological truth. And I know that true facts (He is risen) are not necessarily theological truths. I just thought it was funny.

To take another tack at Tom Chantry's argument, there are lots of people who attend law school who never intend to sit for the bar and practice law. So, no analogy is perfect, right? The medical school argument can not close the issue.

I do not see that the Bible closes women from positions of sharing Biblical truth with men. I think that opens up writing and teaching some things. Can a woman teach how to pastor? Maybe not. Can she teach him how to better present himself while he is preaching? Probably.

Tom Chantry said...


If you're looking for a verse that addresses it directly, I don't have it. R.C. is right about the absence of "seminary" in the Bible, but wrong (I believe) about it's legitimacy as a way of training men as experts in languages long dead and a doctrine which has been expressed progressively for thousands of years.

That said, I think we're actually moving in the direction of a biblical argument, although it takes time. (Which is why I'm a fool for attempting it in a blog meta.)

I see two problems with me going to medical school:

Problem One relates to your first answer: it would be overkill. Put another way, I would be expecting something from the medical school other than what it does, and thus expecting it to cater to my needs, which are different from the needs of all those future doctors currently attending. Do I really want the school to redefine its mission around my First Aid needs?

Problem 2 is related to your second reason - I'm truly not qualified to be a doctor. Honestly, would anyone go to medical school for the reasons I stated? If so, they have gotten bad academic advice. The truth is, if I go, I'm trying to be a doctor, and I'm not qualified. If somehow my high school chemistry teacher shows up in this meta, he can explain to you one reason why, but academic ability isn't the only reason. If I were academically qualified, I'm still not qualified to be a doctor. I'm 42. By the time I finished med school, internship, and residency, I would be in my fifties - too old to get malpractice insurance.

So yeah, there are problems with me going to medical school. Either the school needs to redefine its mission around students like me or it is going to start pumping out unqualified doctors. I'm not happy with either possibility in the midst of a doctor shortage.

(Yes, I'm saying there is more to a medical school's mission and purpose than fulfilling my dreams and making me happy.)

Tom Chantry said...

(Wow, that was a badly formatted comment!)

Michael Coughlin said...

2. I think that women can "teach things" which is was DJP's point was, and the question is, what things can they teach?

I mean, to take it to an extreme - it seems to be that I must leave room to be able to discuss the bible with my wife. I am not sure that there would never be a time she could tell me something she believes about the bible and I should just never listen.

It seems much more about submissiveness and authority than the act itself. It is more about the HEART than the outward act.

We have women speak at church sometimes. They present their missions project, or sing hymns in front of the congregation. I think there is a distinction between preaching-teaching and participating while still observing appropriate submission.

Bill Gnade said...


You are probably right.

The Episcopal Church's ordination of women, which was quite the battle, was ultimately "won" when three retired bishops (all male) consecrated several women as priests in secrecy. It is a trick of liberalism: confer a blessing or right on someone and then dare others to TAKE it away. This was done in the gay marriage debate; in both New Paltz, NY and San Francisco, activist mayors "married" gays and lesbians and then challenged opponents to rescind what was deemed a right. (Both cities were told to stop, but since that time the slide into the abyss has been unstoppable, it seems.)

The irony in the Episcopal Church is that conservatives in that tradition who were holding to scriptural teachings about male headship and pastoral authority, nonetheless stood in a tradition in which the titular head of the church was the Sovereign of England. As you know, Henry VIII was the first Head of the Anglican Church; but right now, the titular head is Queen Elizabeth. Protestant, biblical and conservative as some Episcopalians may have been, they still embraced women as Heads -- as Queens over the church -- by simply being Anglican.

So, indeed, you are right. There are probably many steps toward oblivion that lead to the ordination of women.

What I find curious is that so many women think men are getting away with something by being pastors or priests. Why? Why the envy, the desire, for what have been traditionally male positions? After all, perhaps in God's eyes the pastorate is the WORST of all jobs, and thus fit ONLY for men. Perhaps NOT being a pastor is the more sacred act for women; perhaps being something definitively female (and not derivative of men) is the most important and glorious role. Maybe God is protecting something awesome about women; and maybe having men serve as pastors is God's way of redressing the foolishness of Adam in the Garden (where Adam was reckless and irresponsible in his primary role).

Maybe. But what is so ODD is that so many women believe what men have is somehow better, if not best.


Anonymous said...

Bill Gnade,

That last statement has it I think. And not just women, men also imagine that those in full time ministry have it best.

Michael Coughlin said...

3. A question for the rest of you:

What do you think of the WOTM encouragment of women preaching in the open air?

Is there a difference between teaching a sermon or just publicly and loudly doing a good person test?

Is there a difference between preaching a sermon in a building with other people who are collectively known as the local church and standing on a public street and asking people with a microphone if they've ever lied or stolen then sharing the plan of salvation?

Michael Coughlin said...

4. And finally, and to the Mrs. Elliot point - the fact that a woman is skilled or that God used the person to teach or encourage another believer doesn't justify the behavior.

God has always seemed to allow things to look bleak. Then His people have exercised faith in His ways. Then He comes through in His time.

Bypassing His ways because there are "no qualified men" or "she's a really firy preacher" is similar in principle to Sarah giving Hagar to Abraham that he might have a son, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Yes. The first is not in authority over anyone, the second is.

I can yell at the neighbourhood kids, but that's not the same as teaching my kids, or inviting someone else to do so.

Rachael Starke said...

Okay. Stepped back and reread Dan's post, asked the Interweb what the common definitions are for "seminary", and will now follow Tom's lead in offering some thoughts in reply that will be even more poorly formatted due to time. :) :

- IF we take the most commonly accepted definitions of a seminary as a place where people (ahem) are trained to be pastors of churches? Sure. That's confined to men.

But that's only one avenue that Dan is thinking out loud about. To his point, what about women writing commentaries, speaking to a mixed audience on a theology of suffering (ala the incredibly gifted Nancy Guthrie at a recent Desiring God conference), etc.?

The central issue seems to the relationship of the primary and supreme authority of the Word of God and the various ways we are called and gifted to help one another understand (or stand under) it.

If women truly are truly precluded from not being any kind of conveyor or conduit for the authority of God's Word to the church universal, then that justifies a dear brother's dismissive response to me recently when I was compelled to go to him after seeing/hearing him speak incredibly harshly to his wife. When I gently quoted Col. 3:19 to him and asked him whether that verse lined up with what I'd just witnessed, he said nothing. I later heard from his wife that he didn't feel compelled to hear me because I was violating 1Tim 2:12.

Rachael Starke said...

Sorry- one other random point - Dan makes an assumption that these women theologians are married with children. At the recent TGC Womens' conference, over half of the plenary speakers and teachers were older single women. They were deep teaching, deep thinking, gracious, serious, yet joyful women. One of the lasting impressions it left me was what an incredible picture of what a fulfilled, God-glorifying life a single woman could have, with role models like these. And many of them had advanced Bible degrees.

Michael Coughlin said...


How can you NOT be able to approach your brother and speak to him??


Tobias said...

If you'll bear with a slightly off-base answer...

There is a church that meets in (what I believe is) the original meeting house in my New Hampshire town. I have attended exactly one service there (a Scout Sunday service, @Tom Chantry) as well as many Eagle Scout Courts of Honor. I believe they are a member of the ABA. The church recently received a lady as interim minister and by all accounts, she has been a vast improvement over the tenured male minister that just exited. I have had numerous discussions with a few Christian scouting families that attend the church, and I can't help but agree that she's moved the church back toward the Bible, if not God. Within two weeks of arriving, for example, she began a Wendsday evening bible study (albeit Max Lucado - but it was a start).

Her arrival provided an excellent opportunity for me to direct those kind, but misdirected folks with thom I spoke, toward the biblical requirements for a Pastor/Elder and Deacon in Timothy & Titus and for women in the church in Corinthians. My prayer and hope for the church is that these conversations will help direct their search for a new full-time minister. My expectation, however, is that they will invite the interim minister to become a permanent fixture. This relates directly to my coment earlier to @Bill Gnade. They are already so far down that road, that the female minister is actually calling them back toward the bible.

Not really what you asked for, Dan, but perhaps apropos?

Bill Gnade said...

Michael Coughlin,


Re: Elisabeth Elliot

You wrote: "...the fact that ... God used the person to teach or encourage another believer doesn't justify the behavior."

I don't think you can mean this, as it SEEMS to undermine the point you're trying to make. For if God uses "someone to teach and encourage another believer", I should think we'd all agree that is a good thing.

I am a traditionalist in such matters: I am not in favor of women bishops, deacons, presbyters, elders, pastors, priests, ministers, and the like. In some ways my opposition to their consecration or ordination is structural and institutional: I don't believe these "offices" ought to be filled by women.

However, I am not opposed to a woman teaching me something about God. Elisabeth Elliot was simply fabulous confronting young men about avoiding their responsibility as men; she was great at exhorting us to be the men we were called by God to be. She was also great at putting women "in their place," challenging them to think in truly feminine -- and not masculine -- terms. She was a teacher, and I gladly received that teaching.

But she wasn't standing before me in the institution of a church. She was -- as was I at the time -- an undeniably conservative, Biblically-centered, and shamelessly evangelical Episcopalian; she would never have dared speak in a church service the way she spoke to a college audience or class. She opposed the ordination of women; as a woman, she was a vital voice in the fight against the liberal trends that seem to march unabated throughout Christendom. Yes, there was the crude joke uttered after she spoke that everyone knew Elisabeth wore the pants in the family, but that was just petty fury speaking sarcastically. She was tough as nails on Gordon's student body, and many of us adored her for that. It was the liberals who cringed and cowered, not the conservatives. She was counter-cultural and subversive -- in the right way.

This may come across as too conciliatory for everyone here, but I doubt, should I have been a young member of the first church-gathering in the Upper Room, that I would have been anything but submissive to Mary, Jesus' mother. And I don't think, had I NOT been a direct witness to Jesus' resurrection, that I would have sought headship, so to speak, over Mary Magdalene, who actually MET and knew the Risen Lord. Women have an incredible place in the Church, in the Gospels, and in the Church's history.

For me, Elisabeth Elliot was like Eunice and Lois were for Timothy; and there is no doubt that, for a time at least, Timothy submitted to these women in the Lord. Was he a "man" when he did so? Probably not, but it is fascinating that Paul mentions the women in Timothy's life and not the men. Kind of like Jesus: we hear nothing about Joseph after Jesus turns 12.

Anyhow, thanks for the great discussion!

Anonymous said...

Be careful Bill...
You wrote: "...the fact that ... God used the person to teach or encourage another believer doesn't justify the behavior."

I don't think you can mean this, as it SEEMS to undermine the point you're trying to make. For if God uses "someone to teach and encourage another believer", I should think we'd all agree that is a good thing. "

Was t good that Joseph saved many people from starvation in Egypt?

Bill Gnade said...

Dear Tobias!

Well, we're neighbors, it seems, because I live in NH, too.

Oh, my gosh, Tobias, I have sat in churches, Protestant and Catholic, where the male leaders are so pathetic I feel embarrassed for my gender. There are some horrific male teachers and pastors and priests out there; and yes, I know a woman Methodist pastor in the town south of here who has moved her church TOWARD orthodoxy in many matters.

Do I go there? No, I don't, and yet I REALLY respect this woman in many, many ways. (She's not the interim, by the way.) Do I think she is in the wrong? Maybe not. Why? Because the Methodist church is so far gone (in many ways), her pulpit is not actually in the Faith, if you know what I mean. I mean, is it wrong for a woman to be a pastor in the Christian Science or Mormon traditions? Probably not, since they're not really of the Faith.

Or something like that.

Anyhow, enjoy the sunset.


Bill Gnade said...



I am not sure I understand. I am obtuse -- at least some of the time! :-)

Are you suggesting that because God used Joseph in Egypt that this justifies selling him into slavery? If this is what you mean, let me respond. If not, well, forget what follows.

Did God "use" Joseph's brothers "to teach or encourage another believer"? I don't think we'd agree that He did. Hence, I don't think the comparison applies.

If God uses someone -- like Elisabeth Elliot -- "to teach or encourage another believer", I think that is probably a good thing. But that God used a dire circumstance for Joseph and his brothers into a blessing for ALL, is another matter. With God all things are possible, no? "All things" is, well, rather comprehensive.

If you'd like to enlarge on your comment I'd be much obliged! Thanks!

Bill Gnade said...

PS. Daryl.

Let me rephrase my first sentence: Are you suggesting that because God used Joseph in Egypt that I think this justifies selling him into slavery?

Merrilee Stevenson said...

This topic and the post itself presents a whole lot of rabbit trails, so it's hard to know whether what I'm about to write will add anything to the conversation.

But let me first say that I love this blog. Most posts are geared toward a pastoral minister and the ministry of the church. And I love the comment section, where a lot of learning takes place. It's like a cross between a class and a discussion group, and I get to be a part of it.

I guess what happens sometimes in a conversation where you have a mixture of people in different roles and positions is that sometimes the least-likely person to say something profound does. And we can either choose to humbly admit that we just learned something, or ignore it. I don't like it when my kid does that, but on occasion, it can happen.

That kind of spontaneous teaching/learning that happens in conversation is not the same thing as the teaching that takes place from a pulpit or a classroom or in a book, to some extent. I think because of the pre-meditative part of that kind of formal teaching and willful submission as a student.

Women are supposed to learn both from their husbands (when married) and pastors and elders and from older women. We just need to be teachable all the time, and also discerning about to whom we listen. Part of the problem is what kinds of stuff passes as good teaching in regards to women. Frankly, I believe I'm much better off reading TeamPyro every day than just about any women's blog that exists. (Maybe that is the same attitude some women have in regards to seminary learning.) Not that I've exhausted looking. I haven't really been looking elsewhere. And if DJP and Frank said, "Ladies, you're welcome to read here, but you might be better off reading and commenting..." and suggested somewhere else, I'd prolly go check it out.

By the way, my pastor's wife sent me the link to a message from Nancy Guthrie (who's been mentioned a couple of times), and I wanted to send it to you, DJP. She was SPOT-ON in her message about God speaking to us in His Word, and there were numerous quotes that would be useful in the "cessationist" conversation. But I didn't think you'd want to bother to listen to it. So I didn't. (But you might have Valerie give it a listen and she can tell you what she thinks.)

And on another rabbit hole, today I wrote an uneasy email to my own Mom (a believer) as to why I'm not interested in reading a devotional book written (by a woman, I think) entirely in the first person as if God were speaking. "Jesus Calling."

Jesus come quickly!

We are hungry. But many (women) are feeding on sweet nothings and have no taste for true meat, and there's plenty of sweet nothings being offered all over the place.

And there are many women who are more passionate about studying the Word of God than they are about taking care of their home and children and doing the things the Bible specifically directs at women to do. Ahem. (Tom Chantry can shake his finger at me now. I know I deserve it.)

Having said that, I'm going to the kitchen now.

Anonymous said...

Hymns are wonderful things. They are used for singing to one another. Singing to one another is teaching (Colossians 3:16).

When you are done throwing away the commentaries and theological books written by women (not that there are a lot that would be worth having), based on I Tim. 2, then you'll need to go through your hymnbooks and tear out all the hymns written by women.

Because those are actually used more directly for teaching in the church than a commentary that the pastor considers / analyses before bringing the Word.

And once we get rid of the lyrics, I hope we aren't using music written by women, either, because that teaches on a much more subliminal level.

Enjoy the bonfire, we've got lots of stuff to burn!

Jim Pemberton said...

There's a sense in which we as Protestants miss the biblical identity of our corporate churches. Paul talked about women who ministered outside the church. It's my understanding that the prohibition for women being elders and pastors rests on the duty for them to sit in judgement over prophets (1 Cor 14:33b-35 is in the context of judging prophesies while 11:5 would suggest that women could pray or prophesy albeit in due subjection.). This would place a woman in judgement over her husband which would thwart other commands regarding the relationship between a husband and wife.

Additionally, where the relationship between a husband and wife is analogous with the relationship between Christ and the Church, inasmuch as the preacher has the burden of representing Christ to the congregation, he should be a man so the analogy is carried out. In rare instances where a woman is called to speak in my church, she does so under the auspices of our male pastor.

Otherwise, outside of a congregational setting, I don't see any prohibition for women to minister according to their gifts. In fact, I see a responsibility for husbands to enable their wives to use their gifts as co-heirs in the Body of Christ. If a woman had the opportunity to go to seminary with the goal of ministering outside of a congregational setting, I think it's good that she gets the education she seeks. Why would anyone prevent a woman from getting an education? If she doesn't get an education in a solid school, she may end up getting an education in a liberal school. Then what is likely to teach your wives in the women's Bible study, your children in Sunday School, or the locals on the mission field?

kateg said...

Thank you for this. I have been trying to google this issue without success. I think a lot about it because my very small church pastor is an egalitarian (male)... who (ala Mr. Gnade) went to Gordon Conwell and still points with irony to Elizabeth Elliott "teaching" the men there not to let women teach them, which I tell him speaks more to Mrs. Elliot's opinion of whether or not the students there were actually "men," than to anything else, but it is getting harder and harder to cling to my principals, when self-styled complementarians at TGC/TG4/Piper share stages with, or give them to, women. And then of course I get tripped up because perhaps it defeats my point entirely by talking about it to my pastor, as if to convince. De facto egalitarianism in the churches is very prevalent.

Logan Paschke said...

I'm just waiting for Rachel Held Evans to comment that you are assassinating the character of the women you mentioned.

There is a very big difference between being a pastor/shepherd and someone who is an author/professor/teacher/blogger/theologian/seminary student.

The relationship of a pastor and his flock is unlike (for example) a professor and her class.

There is an intimacy that the pastor has (or should have, megachurches try to emulate this through having a lot of elders watching over a lot of different areas) with his congregation.

He meets with a few of them individually to disciple them so they can become leaders.

He is teaching sunday schools and helping believers grow in maturity.

He is first to pray for someone and last to leave the church.

He is there when you're on the hospital bed and facing death.

He will do everything he can to be like Christ in the best of times and the worst of times. Not just for you personally, but for the whole congregation.

Sacrifice, obedience, compassion, courage, and so much more.

It's not an easy journey. Much less burnout would happen if congregations understood how much of a burden their pastors carry daily. The spiritual health of a man is usually very low on the totem pole compared to a new building or finding a good drummer.

No doubt, women scholars, commentators, and seminary students exhibit much of this in their own lives. I have certainly seen it.

This does not mean they exercise the spiritual authority that Timothy does over his congregation. Or my pastors have over me.

I see it as a difference of influence versus authority.

Unknown said...

I think the question of women in seminary (as either professors or students) bumps up against two related areas:

First: To what extent are the following questions similar or different?

1) Can one provide a biblical rationale for women being educated?

2) Can one provide a biblical rationale for women studying in a seminary?

Second: To what extent are the following questions similar or different?

1) Do seminaries exist as pastor training institutions and thus belong to the church?

2) Do seminaries exist as more general education institutions and thus belong to the academy?

Zack Skrip said...

Brad, thanks for those questions.

I think I would disagree with the second set, in that I don't think it's an either/or dichotomy. I think seminaries--rightly understood--belong to the church. They function correctly when they are an arm of the church. They can be a very useful tool. But that doesn't mean their sole purpose must be pastoral training.

It's clear from different MABS, Counseling, and other such programs that they do not see themselves as exclusively for people who will become full time pastors--that is, elders in a local body.

Michael Coughlin said...

Bill wrote:

Michael -
You wrote: "...the fact that ... God used the person to teach or encourage another believer doesn't justify the behavior."

I don't think you can mean this, as it SEEMS to undermine the point you're trying to make.

Just to clarify, I stand by this statement and I would use the fact that God used the actions of those who murdered Jesus for good purposes. I would contend that their actions were malum in se, or sinful as we would say in English.

Point being - whether or not Mrs Elliot was as great teacher or not, and whether the truths she uttered actually were helpful isn't relevant to evaluating her behavior which must be compared to God's standards, not based on their apparent efficacy.

Great discussion, thanks. And I don't know who said we should throw out every hymn or book written by a woman.

As they say on ESPN, C'mon man!

Morris Brooks said...

Obviously, the Scriptures draw a firm line around the "pulpit" and around church leadership/eldership, and around the laying on of hands by the presbytery, and around women having authority over men in the church and in the home. The teaching, preaching, leading, and roles of authority in the church have been designated as male occupied.

So, if seminary is for the training of pastors, then I can't see allowing a woman to teach at a seminary. Does this mean she can't write books? No. Does this mean she can't teach Greek or Hebrew at the college level? No. Does this mean she can't write Bible studies or devotionals? No.

However, she cannot usurp the male leadership role in the church, and since she herself cannot occupy a role of headship in the church, then she has no place in the teaching or training of men to do that which she cannot do.

I believe this is what Chantry meant by self-evident.

Zorro! said...

For Michael Coughlin & Bill Gnade & Daryl

This part of the argument might benefit from some input from a very blessed man - C.H. Spurgeon in Sermon #45 on James 5:19-20:
"Now another thought, and that is—If God sees fit to make use of any of us for the conversion of others, we must not, therefore, be too sure that we are, ourselves, converted. It is a most solemn thought that God makes use of ungodly men as instruments for the conversion of sinners! And it is strange that some most terrible acts of wickedness have been the means of the conversion of men. When Charles II ordered the Book of Sports to be read in churches, and after the service, the clergyman was required to read to all the people to spend the afternoon in what are called harmless diversions and games that I will not mention here—even that was made the means of conversion! For one man said within himself, “I have always disported myself thus on the Sabbath. But now to hear this read in church! How wicked we must have become! How the whole land must be corrupt.” It led him to think of his own corruption and brought him to the Savior! There have been words proceeding, I had almost said from devils, which have been the means of conversion. Grace is not spoiled by the rotten wooden spout it runs through. God did once speak by an ass to Balaam but that did not spoil His Words. So He speaks, not simply by an ass, which He often does, but by something worse than that! He can fill the mouths of ravens with food for an Elijah, and yet the raven is still a raven. We must not suppose because God has made us useful, that we are, therefore, converted!"

Zorro! said...

I believe, based on that, Spurgeon's argument would be: simply because a woman might preach and much good might come of it, people may even be converted, that does not mean it is right for her to preach. The providence of God is a concept I am still learning more about, so I probably can't argue much further in that direction.

Sweet Lei said...

First-time commenter, long-time reader of this blog...

Disclaimer: I'm a woman with a Master's of NT degree. I'm also a complementarian who agrees that female pastors and elders are unbiblical.

When I was converted during high school, the most immediate, noticeable, drastic change in my life was that I was suddenly obsessed with Scripture. I loved it--but I had a problem--I didn't understand it a lot of the time. And I wanted to, so that I'd know what God was saying, so I could believe Him and obey Him. So I went to church and Bible study, and read everything I could get my hands on. But that wasn't enough, so I went to Bible college where I learned Greek and hermeneutics, and learned big fancy words which I don't use most of the time in non-academic contexts. But that wasn't enough so I went to seminary for a Master of Arts degree. That's still not enough for me, but I have the tools now to pick out good books and understand them. I study Scripture not because I want to teach men, but because I have a (God-given, I believe) passion for it. I could have studied Shakespeare or History or something else, but this seemed like a better use of my time.

Chantry, I think there's a critical flaw with your medical school analogy. People go to medical school with a utilitarian purpose--they go there to become doctors. But I went to seminary for a non-utilitarian purpose primarily--I wanted to know more about Scripture (Maybe you were thinking of the more specific MDiv degree? If so, then I agree with you--I didn't need the pastoral counseling and homiletics classes because I wasn't going to be using them). Now, people may wonder whether that's the best use of tuition money, 6 years of my life, a space in the seminary that may have gone to an aspiring pastor, etc... but those are practical, not biblical objections. If Jesus would not tell Mary that she couldn't learn at His feet, who is anyone to say that women shouldn't learn? If someone were to tell me that I can't learn past a certain level because I'm a woman, that would be heartbreaking, because it would be like putting a limit to my relationship with Jesus (who, after all, speaks through Scripture).

Tim said...

I suppose I am commenting among a good number of seminarians here who may easily dissect and repute my general disregard for seminaries, but I want say that I think R.C. was target on when he wrote, "Shouldn't it tell us something, indeed something important, telling, even convicting, that the Bible says absolutely nothing at all about seminary, and yet it is so central to how we operate in the church?"

Paul really did not recommend seminaries or the writing of books for the building up of the church.

But he was pretty clear about not allowing women to teach or exercise authority. I wonder what Timothy did with this.

Rational νεόφυτος said...

Just a thought: a woman teaching a seminary class that I was in would have me thinking beyond just the course material and wondering, how is this woman setting an example of how I should be a spiritual leader to my wife and children, when by this very example I'm submitting myself to her headship and authority as the instructor of the class. Sort of puzzling.

Anonymous said...

"Great discussion, thanks. And I don't know who said we should throw out every hymn or book written by a woman.

"As they say on ESPN, C'mon man!"

I was referring to the sixth comment in the thread:
"...women teaching and writing in ministerial functions is simply wrong, whether inside or outside the church."

There's a few others along the same lines. I was just pointing out that the same logic would exclude hymns authored by women.

Tom Chantry said...

A couple of thoughts regarding seminaries might clarify my thinking on the issue:

1. Seminaries exist for the education and preparation of preachers. That is simply a historically accurate fact. Seminaries may have changed their purpose in recent years, but whether that is a good thing or not is debatable, and that debate is central to this question.

Universities initially existed to prepare men for careers within the church - either as priests or as lawyers, which in Medieval Europe amounted to the same thing. At the time of the Reformation, the Protestant churches all continued the practice of having colleges or academies for the purpose of training future preachers in Scripture and theology. As time went by, more and more people went to university. When the majority of university students were not aiming at the ministry, churches established seminaries as post-university schools intended to focus on the preparation for ministry. That is the origin of seminaries.

In recent years seminaries have begun to do many other things. Arguably the prime motive in this change has been financial: more degree programs produce more students paying tuition. However, I have long suspected that part of the driving force behind the changing culture and the sense that if more people want to go to seminary, there ought to be a way for them to do so. Still, the defining reason for a seminary’s existence remains the training of preachers. If we didn’t believe that preachers benefit from training, we wouldn’t have seminaries.

Tom Chantry said...

2. The argument in favor of having seminaries is solid and, in fact, difficult to refute. It is, in my opinion, mere Biblicism to argue that if Paul didn’t establish a seminary neither should we.

The apostles were, in all likelihood, all trilingual. They spoke Aramaic, the language of Palestine, and Greek, the language of the empire. They had been taught Hebrew in order to discuss the Scriptures. In other words, they knew the languages of Scripture from their youth. Further, everyone in their day who heard the gospel was hearing a new theology received directly from the mouths of inspired prophets. In this sense, not only can a Paul not exist today; neither can a Timothy.

Pastors need to have a working knowledge of two languages now dead for thousands of years. They need to be experts in a Book which has been variously interpreted for centuries. They need to understand the implications of doctrinal error taught throughout the history of the church’s development. Ironically, because the truth is unchanging but man is, the amount of information which a pastor ought to have at his fingertips is constantly growing! Seminary is doubtless an imperfect platform to produce this knowledge in a pastor, but before you throw it out, you’re going to need to replace it with something better.

Dan will be interested to hear that John Frame has toyed with this idea over the years. His motive, as I recall, was to explore how the church might train its ministers more directly without relying so heavily on extra-biblical institutions. His conclusion was that no congregation can expect to have the expertise to train men in so many specialties, and even a large denomination is going to need to collect a community of academic experts in one location in order to accomplish the job. He suggested that churches ought to teach pasturing, but will need a school to teach languages, exegesis, theology, history, and philosophy. Which brings me to point three…

Tom Chantry said...

3. Everything of unique value a seminary does for ministerial training happens in the classes that many in this thread are suggesting should be open to everyone. The classes on preaching and counseling just aren’t that important.

No one ever learned to exegete Scripture in a homiletics class. No one ever learned to refute false doctrine in a counseling class. These classes which you are calling “pastoral” are in fact extras - modern add-ons that arguably shouldn’t even exist. Show me a good preacher and I’ll show you someone who listened to many good preachers - in the church, not in school. Show me an excellent counselor and I’ll show you someone who respected and listened to his own elders. Academic classes do little in these areas. That’s the argument against having seminaries - all of the leadership, speaking, and pastoring ought to be taught in the church and by the church.

The necessary part of seminary is the part that you all want to call general. Having gone to seminary I can tell you, there were two populations: those going into ministry and those who were there for general reasons - and in every significant class the general population was present. Whenever we got together as only future pastors - the classes from which women were excluded, by the way - we learned, frankly, not much. The courses were in preaching, counseling, and leadership, but anyone who learned to preach, counsel, or lead in them would be a lousy pastor. You learn those things in the church. I knew a few men then and others today who skip those classes for financial reasons and take expanded MAR degrees. That’s fine with me, although there are academic reasons for getting an MDiv. If I were on a pastoral search committee, I wouldn’t care at all whether a man had taking a single preaching seminar, but I would have many questions if he hadn’t been seminary trained in all the “general” subjects.

Could seminaries exist without departments of Practical Theology? In fact Princeton Seminary, the most influential reformed school in American history, had no classes in Practical Theology until around 1900. When the classes were introduced, the more conservative professors objected, and they were right to do so; the practical department immediately became the avenue for the introduction of liberalism into the school.

Tom Chantry said...

4. If seminaries are going to play such a critical role in the formation and preparation of men for the ministry, they ought to be taught by other men qualified to lead within the church. The only way to begin to address the necessary evil of having a para-church academic institution prepare men for ministry is to put the instruction in the hands of other men already ordained to that ministry.

This goes directly to Dan’s initial question - or at least the part of it that addressed the question of professorships. If a seminary exists to assist the church in preparing ministers of the gospel, can the church - which Christ established under exclusively male leadership - send its future pastors to receive the key elements of their training from women? That is an illogical position. In fact, most of you seem to acknowledge it when you say that women should not teach preaching classes. But I would much rather see a woman teaching a class in public speaking to seminarians than a class in the doctrine of Christ or in Hebrew grammar. The latter are absolutely key elements to a man’s preparation for pastoring, the former is frankly something he could get at most community colleges if he wanted. Understand what matters in seminary and the whole question shifts.

At my seminary no one could teach unless he was ordained in a denomination holding the same confessional standards of the school. I think that after I graduated one of my professors was dismissed - not for any academic infraction but because of actions outside the seminary which resulted in his ordination being revoked by his church. That policy is necessary once you understand that seminary, especially the “non-practical” parts, exists to prepare men for pastoral ministry. Elders are to train future elders, and if this must happen in an academic setting, then at least the academy ought to be governed and staffed with qualified elders. So it’s not only women who should not be seminary professors; it’s anyone who fails to meet the qualifications of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

Tom Chantry said...

5 Now consider this: if the justification for the seminary’s existence is to prepare men for pastoral ministry, is it reasonable for seminaries to broaden their purpose and do a bunch of other things as well?

Before you answer that, remember this: the work of a seminary is one of the most critical tasks in the entire world. I mentioned the doctor shortage in the comments yesterday; there is a much greater shortage of qualified preachers in the church. In fact, this is arguably the greatest need in the world at every point in history. When you consider Romans 10:14-15, it is hard to argue otherwise. I would conclude, then, that if seminaries are necessary for the preparation of pastors and are established for that purpose, they should never under any circumstances diversify their purpose in any way which distracts from that central focus.

And I am absolutely convinced - as a seminary student who lived through it - that the trend to open all the really important seminary courses to people with no intention of ever preaching has in fact been a great distraction. This is especially true when one considers the introduction of women into the seminary classroom, and no - that observation has absolutely nothing to do with the godliness or intelligence of the women who attend.

Back when I was in college, the last all-male military academies, VMI and the Citadel, were being forcibly opened to women cadets by the spirit of inclusion. Both schools insisted that it made no sense: their entire purpose was to prepare young men to lead other young men into combat, and that they could not accomplish that task in the same way with women present. But we live in an age in which two facts prevailed: many people don’t think combat leadership matters anymore, and the same people believe that an individual’s personal dreams should always trump an institution’s stated purposes. So if a girl wanted to go to the Citadel, the Citadel’s purpose and function would just have to be altered.

The same debate should be taking place in our seminaries. If a woman wants to go to seminary, I won’t argue that her motives are impure; I don’t need to make that argument. The simple fact is that her inclusion in the classroom will change the manner in which seminary education takes place. No, seminaries don’t have snap dormitory inspections at all hours by upper-classmen like the Citadel used to have, but Christian men (as all seminary professors must be) are supposed to be gentlemen; they are supposed to treat women differently than they do men. As Christian men, they cannot treat their female students the way they ought to treat the young men who want to enter the ministry, and that means that they must change the way they teach.

I could go on with details, but I have already taken over this thread. I fully expect Dan to wake up, read all this, and rebuke me for my impertinence.

Kerry James Allen said...

"You women, who would not be in your right place if you began to preach in the streets, you can make your husbands happy and comfortable when they come home, and that will make them preach all the better!" CHS

Zack Skrip said...


Thanks for making your argument. I find myself agreeing with much of what you say. I appreciate the time you took to present it here.

If we assume the singular (and also historical) purpose of the seminary, then yes. I whole heartedly agree.

Jim Pemberton said...

Good arguments. Two questions:

1. Do you believe that women so inclined shouldn't learn or be taught such things as biblical languages and hermeneutics?

2. If they should have the opportunity to do so, where are good schools for them to go to learn these things that won't have a liberal bias? Or put another way, do Bible colleges typically offer classes on these things at the level that anyone would need?

DJP said...

Only partway through catching up on most recent comments, but...

I do want to thank all of you who came to contribute to and/or gain understanding on this topic. Well-done, I appreciate you.

Particularly in re. recent comments: Sr. Zorro, well-quoted!

Sweet Lei: very good points, very graciously put. Thank you. Comment more often. That's an order! Obey me! Obey me!!!!1!! (c;

Tom Chantry said...


I have no objection to women learning as much as they want about the Bible. As we chatted about this this morning, my wife reminded me that she minored in Bible at a Christian college and learned a lot - all in a context which was not intended for the training of pastors. The question of whether a woman may learn these things is very different from the question of whether she belongs in a seminary classroom.

The argument from some will be that you can't get as good an education in these things outside of seminary as you can inside. That's probably true, and it's a good thing. We ought to focus our best efforts on our greatest need. If anyone thinks that the critical question here is personal dreams and aspirations, he should reread Romans 10:14-15. We're talking about something much, much more important than anyone's personal inclinations. If the same education is not available to non-ministerial students, including women, that is no argument for opening the seminary.

However, I suspect that options exist. There may well be places to learn hermeneutics and theology and church history that are not seminaries. Even secular schools teach the biblical languages - and often quite well. I attended classes at the local state university to refresh my biblical Hebrew and was taught by a (very liberal) Rabbi - not a bad experience at all, and a context that is properly open to everyone who can handle the academic requirements.

My advice to anyone - man or woman - who does not intend to preach but who wants to know the Bible better is to by all means do so. Look into the options, and find one that fits. But I continue to believe that the seminaries have made a mistake by opening their doors to women and to men who are unqualified to pursue the ministry and/or who have no intention of doing so.

Anonymous said...

I'm teaching my husband how to cook.

p.s. Tom Chantry! You changed your profile picture!

Anonymous said...

Bill Gnade,

Sorry for the delay.

I'm saying that just because a female "pastor" or "preacher" encourages someone doesn't have any bearing on the rightness of her position.
In the same way that, as you noted, no one can justify Joseph's brothers actions.

Just because God uses someone in their sin, does not, in any way, reflect on the behaviour in question.

That's all.

Michael Coughlin said...

Zorro! Amen.

Jon - Thanks for clarifying. The thread has gotten so long I had forgotten about that comment. Agreed, brother.

donsands said...

Good post. Well done. I agree whole heartedly. Thanks.

I am very, very encouraged by Joni, when ever she is a guest speaker, and shares the Word and her testimony.
Her books are excellent as well. She came to mind as I skimmed through the comments.

Have a terrific weekend in our Lord's grace and joy! May the Holy Spirit move mightily upon all His under-shepherds, and may they preach the Word to all us sheep, so that we don't become prey to all the many wolves in this land. Amen.

Jim Pemberton said...

I agree inasmuch as men can't truly be men with each other when women are around. I don't think many women understand this. And seminaries certainly need to be able to train men.

As for myself, I preach occasionally and have conducted pastor's conferences abroad although I have not been to seminary myself and am not "ordained" such as it is. The one thing I would like is a better understanding of the Greek and Hebrew, but for someone who is already on the ground I've found the options woefully limited. So my concern is for people who hunger for greater intellectual tools for understanding the Bible.

As an example, I taught hermeneutics in my church. A couple of women in the class returned to me excited with how the knowledge has helped them understand and appreciate what they were learning as they took those tools into other Bible studies and their own reading. Too many Christians don't get this kind of help. So now they are using this to teach Sunday School to the younger kids in my church.

Eric said...

"Paul really did not recommend seminaries or the writing of books for the building up of the church."

Except that he wrote letters (books) for the building up of the church. And the only seminaries of the day were the Jewish rabbinic schools, so it stands to reason that Paul would not recommend them, as they did not teach the truth regarding our Savior.

Tom Chantry said...

Except that he wrote letters (books) for the building up of the church. And the only seminaries of the day were the Jewish rabbinic schools, so it stands to reason that Paul would not recommend them, as they did not teach the truth regarding our Savior.

True. Albeit, on that logic, it is also true that Paul was a seminary alumnus.

(More Latin - LOL)

Eric said...

"True. Albeit, on that logic, it is also true that Paul was a seminary alumnus."

Agreed as well, but that was prior to his conversion, and it does not speak to the appropriateness of the school in which he was trained.

Cameron Shaffer said...


I attend a seminary that is complimentarian but has women professors. I had two classes this semester taught by a woman, including Hebrew.

I have no problem with women teaching me in class because the prohibitions in scripture to women teaching are directly linked to the role of elders and the corporate body. 1 Timothy 2 immediately spills into the qualifications for elders and 1 Corinthians 14 is a chapter on how to conduct corporate worship. The context about women not teaching/having authority/keeping silent is one of authority in the church.

The classroom and commentary are neither corporate worship nor an elder.

Also, I go to seminary to learn to better worship God with my mind and to understand his revelation better, not just to be trained for the pastorate. The plenty of women in the M.Div program at Redeemer are there with the same goal - to learn about God and his word.

I don't have a particular book or article to point to you on that, but I hope that is helpful.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aaron Snell said...


That is one of the more helpful treatises on the issue of seminaries that I have read. It helped me clarify my thinking greatly. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Usually when I join a conversation this late, I just listen. I have to admit though I am a little surprised by some of the questions Dan raised, and some of the comments, which seem (and I say "seem" because I think maybe I am missing something) to be implying that women can't teach men biblical truth.

That, of course, is silliness in the extreme. It is one thing to say that the office of elder/overseer is reserved for men (which is clearly biblical) and its another to argue that women can never instruct men in the Word.

What about mom's instructing their sons? Or grandmothers for that matter? My grandmother lived a life mostly of suffering, and her biblical instruction to trust God at all times profoundly effected my life. To reach a certain age and tell her "Sorry, Nanny, quoting Paul's teaching on suffering and showing me how it applies in my daily life is no longer appropriate for you to do" would have been the height of folly. Yet, that is a woman "teaching" me.

To not benefit from a women's study and wisdom put forth in a book, a class etc, simply because she is a woman would be mere arrogance. Paul's admonishment regarding women teachers was clearly in reference to a particular office, and the authority that the office carries...not a statement about whether or not men can learn from women.

As Tom Chantry would say, if you don't understand that, I don't know how to help you (or something like that :)

PS: Your view of what exactly a seminary is would determine what you think about women seminary profs. Personally if I am taking a Hebrew class I want whoever knows Hebrew the best teaching me, as I don't see a professor as holding the office of elder.

Aaron Snell said...

So here's how I'm breaking this issue down in my mind:

1) The issue of seminaries is important, but is only a part of the larger question Dan is posing.

2) There is, it seems to me, a clear biblical basis for women to have some sort of edifying and instructive role in the faith in the lives of men (Priscilla/Apollos, Lois & Eunice/Timothy).

3) The trick is where to draw the lines, so as to be faithful to 1 Timothy 2. The examples cited by Dan (commentators, theologians, writers, and professors) are not addressed directly in Scripture (for reasons of anachronism), so general principles must be derived to guide our discernment.

4) I think the Priscilla/Apollos scenario works best as an opposing guardrail to Paul's didactic passage on the issue (granting that, though it is a descriptive passage in Acts, it has legitimate prescriptive applications). In other words, what is it about the situation with Aquila, Priscilla and Apollos that made her instructive role in Apollos' life OK, and not a violation of the apostolic teaching of Paul? It seems, from the text, that at least a couple options present themselves:

a) It was instruction that was done with her husband, hence she was instructing under her husband's headship. This is the approach taken by many churches who would say they want to affirm 1 Timothy 2 as binding in a straighforward way but nonetheless have women in teaching and limited leadership roles - women can teach in the church if they are doing so under the authority of the male leadership.

b) The instruction was done in private. The text makes a point of this - Aquila and Priscilla "took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately." (Acts 18:26) Thus, the argument would go like this: Priscilla didn't assume a public approach to Apollos' instruction in the church, which would be the role of male elders, and hence was not in violation of the apostolic teaching on women's roles in regards to the teaching of men.

I have more to say on this, and if I get time this afternoon I'll try to come back and do so.

David A. Carlson said...

men can't truly be men with each other when women are around

As Christian men, they cannot treat their female students the way they ought to treat the young men who want to enter the ministry, and that means that they must change the way they teach.


Unknown said...

I have no interest in attending seminary, and I'm far from accepting women pastors. In fact, finding a church in New England that had all-male leadership took enormous effort, but it was imperative for us.

I am, however, a blogger, and often blog about matters of doctrine. This post has caused my husband and me to reevaluate my blog. Am I going beyond Scriptural bounds? I hope not, as I love what I do. But obedience is more important than self-satisfaction. I'm not sure exactly where I'll end up, since hubby and I are just beginning to sort through Scriptures, but I thank you for this (uncomfortable) challenge.

Lynda O said...

Great comments and discussion on several spin-off topics... I've only briefly scanned through the above, so just a few comments on one issue.

Ideally the married woman, as Merrilee said above, is supposed to learn from her husband as well as pastors, elders and older women. Agree with Merrilee, too, though, concerning what passes as good teaching for women: I too prefer reading the Pyro blog, as well as a few other good biblically solid blogs (such as The Cripplegate and the GTY blog).

Also, what about the married woman with an unbelieving husband? Or, the husband is a nominal, professed believer -- but shows a worldview that is more like the world than the Christian worldview, and he shows very little interest in spiritual things, much more preoccupied with worldly pursuits, and he has a low view of scripture, that the only important thing in God's word is how to be saved, but everything else is unimportant and we can't be certain and dogmatic about secondary doctrines because such are just different people's opinions.

In such situations, the woman is compelled to attend her husband's choice of church: one that is okay concerning basic doctrine, not outright heresy, but a church that is still mediocre with superficial teaching at best and quite a few errors on secondary issues as well.

God's word does give us a few hints, that there are times when the woman is more spiritually discerning, and understanding spiritual things, than her husband: an obvious example is Abigail; but also Samson's parents in Judges 13:22-23. So the idea that the woman must learn from her husband and the teachers at that local church, doesn't always work in reality.

Sweet Lei said...

Thanks Dan! :)

Chantry-what would you suggest for the woman who really wants to learn in-depth (at the level taught in the better seminaries) about the Bible, if she shouldn't go to seminary? Secular universities? But when is the last time one of those taught sound biblical doctrine?

The Squirrel said...

Jules said...
"I'm teaching my husband how to cook."



Pastor Steve said...

Where in the context of 1 Tim. 2:12 (woman not to teach or have authority over a man) is this limited to just the church?

Susan said...

Rachael said: "
If women truly are truly precluded from not being any kind of conveyor or conduit for the authority of God's Word to the church universal, then that justifies a dear brother's dismissive response to me recently when I was compelled to go to him after seeing/hearing him speak incredibly harshly to his wife. When I gently quoted Col. 3:19 to him and asked him whether that verse lined up with what I'd just witnessed, he said nothing. I later heard from his wife that he didn't feel compelled to hear me because I was violating 1Tim 2:12."

Oh my, Rachael, I don't know what your initial response was when this brother's wife told you about his attitude, but I would be sooooooooooooo offended. It almost explains why he would speak to his wife the way he did...do you follow? I mean, what about Mt. 18? Let's say you told your husband about it and then your husband went to confront him, wouldn't you be violating the "between him and you alone" command? Sheesh.

Zorro! said...

I know I am propagating an off-topic discussion but...
If Rachel observed this happen, like she says, the sin was in public, right? I am not so sure that the Matthew 18 process is restricted to the person who was "hurt" by the sin - but the person who observes it - because they can be convicted too.
Did Peter's sin need to be against Paul when Paul rebuked him about his actions regarding the separation of Jews and Gentiles?
If you see a husband sin against his wife, I would think you have some type of obligation to confront that sin -- first in a James 5:19-20 spirit, to ensure you are not just misunderstanding, and then along the lines of Matthew 18 which provides for evidence to be had and witnesses, and offers of forgiveness for confession and repentance.
But refusing to do that which you know is right, should that be confronting a brother in sin, is wrong for you.

As off topic as this may be, I think it is important to get it right.

To bring this closer to the subject:
On one level we are equal in God's sight, and there are specified responsibilities we have according to our vocation and the station we have (as a woman, wife, mother, "older woman" - man, husband, father, elder, etc.).
But there are other responsibilities that we have as Christians, irrespective of our vocation and station - like the entire law, discerning between good and evil, judging what we are taught according to the word, etc.
I think confronting sin falls into the latter category.
So here is a question, whose answer may clarify things: Does the person using scripture 1 Tim. 3:13-17 style (to know what to believe(doctrine), for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness) - Is that person required to be a man if the rebuke, correction or training in righteousness is directed to a man? Can a woman rebuke or correct a man using scripture (or otherwise)? With all love of course, in the same way a man should.

Zorro! said...

***I meant 2 Tim 3:16-17, not 1 Tim. 3:13-17...but they are still relevant.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Steve:
"Where in the context of 1 Tim. 2:12 (woman not to teach or have authority over a man) is this limited to just the church?"

I Tim. 1:3 implies that Paul is giving instructions for Timothy as he leads the church. 3:14-15 strongly suggests that what has come before is for behaviour in the church. Since the chapter breaks weren't in Paul's original letter, that is in the context.

Tom Chantry said...

Chantry-what would you suggest for the woman who really wants to learn in-depth (at the level taught in the better seminaries) about the Bible, if she shouldn't go to seminary? Secular universities? But when is the last time one of those taught sound biblical doctrine?

Let me run with this question for a moment, because I think it points us to something that is critical both in the question I’m pursuing and in the slate of questions Dan initially posted. I do not know you, and so I have no reason to presume anything about your motives in asking this question. I’ll just say that I can imagine this question coming from two very different places:

A person might mean by this nothing more than, “Alright, presuming a woman shouldn’t go to seminary, what options are there for her? If she mustn’t go to seminary, is there an equally good option, and if not, what is the next best option?” In other words, the question could be merely informational.

On the other hand, the same question might be a bit more provocative. It could mean, “Alright, Chantry: if you are going to cut a woman off from the specific education she desires, you had better have an option for her, because if she wants that education, than she had better get it. It is imperative that the church/academy/society/cosmos provide her with what she wants; otherwise life is cruel and you are a heartless oppressor.” OK, I intentionally overstated that, and I’m almost certain that you don’t mean it quite that way, but you get the idea, right? Is the point of the question to say, “If seminary is closed, someone needs to provide another option, and if there is no other option, than seminary must, must, must be made available”?

Put another way, one way to respond to your question would be to ask, “What if there is no option? Then what?”

But I won’t answer that way; instead I’ll answer both interpretations of your question in turn:

Tom Chantry said...

Assuming that the question is merely informational, no, I am not suggesting that a seminary education can be duplicated in a secular university. What I suggested earlier is that many people with no intent of going into the ministry have majored in Bible at Christian colleges and learned a lot. Some of those colleges are better than others. Some even offer graduate degrees which are not intended at all to be ministerial in nature. I would recommend that a woman who has the means, opportunity, and desire for such learning should investigate and find the best fit.

The most common complaint, though, is that such programs sometimes do not offer biblical languages, and I only mentioned secular universities by way of saying that this is a deficiency which may be made up elsewhere. I found good instruction in biblical Hebrew at UWM. It probably exists elsewhere also. I suspect that with investigation and effort any man or woman with opportunity and means could acquire a decent foundation in Scripture and Theology - enough to become an intelligent reader and to be able to pursue lifelong studies of these disciplines through reading. If that is the goal, it can be had without going to seminary.

Will the education received be “at the level taught in the better seminaries”? Probably not, in fact, I hope not. By that I don’t mean that I hope anyone fails to get the education they desire, but that I hope our best efforts are focused on the education of pastors. Given that I believe that both the church and the world desperately need more and better preachers, this is only logical. (This was the whole point of my medical school analogy: no matter how much I want to learn about health, I want society’s greatest efforts focused on producing more doctors, because we need that more.)

But again, if the purpose is to grow in knowledge and understanding, that can be well supplied outside of seminary; of that I am convinced. At some point in a person’s education she will reach the point where she is able to continue to learn and grow without more schooling, and I am convinced that this level is attainable outside of seminary. As long as the driving concern is not, “Someone might be getting an even better education than I,” any person - man or woman - ought to be able to achieve this goal.

Tom Chantry said...

But if you (or someone else) is challenging me to provide an equal option or back down, my answer is simply this: I don’t have an equal option, and that fact changes nothing. What I have argued is that there is a pressing need for better educational opportunities for our future pastors, and that part of what is necessary to get there is to jettison the idea that seminaries ought to be equal-opportunity educational institutions for future non-pastors - men and women alike. If I’m right about that, then it is a concern which ought to matter more to every Christian than his/her own personal dreams.

Modern people - and perhaps especially modern Americans - have made an idol out of “dreams.” We start the process by telling our kids - and especially our girls - “You can be whatever you want; don’t let anyone trample on your dreams.” We have encoded this idolatry in laws demanding equal access to every profession, every institution, and every private club. We have a shared sense of outrage when anyone says to anyone else, “No, you may not.” But both reason and revelation tell us that there are higher values than individual dreams. Romans 10:14-15 lay out one such higher value: the world needs competent preachers - lots of them - if souls are to be saved.

To any Christian - man or woman - who desires a deeper knowledge of the Word of God and who wishes to pursue that knowledge through formal education, I say, “Good for you!” But to anyone who says, “I must have the best education available, even if giving it to me inhibits the preparation of pastors, I say, “Shame on you!” That attitude is reminiscent of the well fed individual who insists on seconds in the middle of a famine. The world needs preachers more than anyone needs a seminary degree.

Of course, anyone could argue that I’m wrong and that the presence of woman and other non-future-preachers doesn’t impede seminary education at all, but that is an argument which has to be made. It is very different from merely asserting, “You must provide an equal option for women or else the seminaries must remain open.”

Again, “Sweet Lei,” I make absolutely no assumption as to what you meant to imply by your question. I’m merely using it to illustrate an important component to how we address this subject.

Tom Chantry said...

And I should add, this distinction applies to all of Dan’s initial questions, too. Should a woman write commentaries? Should a woman be a professional theologian? Should a woman teach in a seminary? There are two very different ways to approach those questions.

One way is to assume that a woman must be allowed to pursue her own dreams and exhibit her own giftedness according to her own understanding of what those gifts are. She must be able to do whatever a man could do, because the openness of her path to self-fulfillment is the highest goal. In other words, of all values, fairness is primary. We know how those who think this way will answer the questions, but regardless of whether they are right or not, they have already abandoned Christian thinking.

The other way is to begin by asking, “What is according to the mind of Christ?” and assuming that the answer will have more to do with the overall health of His church and its mission than it will with any individual’s dreams and aspirations. I’m quite frankly very pleased that this discussion has for the most part proceeded along these lines, but I think we all know that the other viewpoint lurks in the wings.

DJP said...

Just when we seem to have a near-consensus, it seems (or I'm misunderstanding him) that Denny Burke disagrees with just about everyone.

Which means we're probably all wrong.


Barbara said...

Steve Drake said,

Paul's admonition for a woman to receive instruction at home from her husband (can't find the verse right now) should be considered as well, right?

Which on its face completely eliminates those who don't have husbands from knowing anything. But since we knowing that Paul esteemed the single position as one he himself carried, and that he holds that knowledge of the Truth is not something from which single women are excluded, there had to be more to the context of that statement.

I say this as one who relates very well to commenter Sweet Lei's testimony, but formal attendance of seminary is not a feasible option for me. But the thirst and drive to know the Scripture, and thus the God of the Scripture, is very much there. I am a complementarian (PCA) who is not comfortable with women in teaching/shepherding roles over men for the reasons stated in above comments from others, but I do very much appreciate the study offerings online from both Covenant and Westminster Theological Seminaries to teach me and make me less of a burden on other womens' husbands.

Zorro! said...

Barbara -
I have no special education in Bible anything - so this opinion may miss the mark.
But I believe that a single woman, especially in Paul's day, would still be part of her father's household and could still be subject to, and receiving education from him (and his household). We also see elsewhere (Titus 2)that older women have a responsibility (indeed, a very high charge - Titus 2:5) to teach and admonish younger women.
Widows, also, were given some consideration - those without families are taken into the church. This would probably include instruction in the word so as to be disciples.

yankeegospelgirl said...

I'll throw in another female perspective on this issue. My opinion is that women should not serve as seminary professors, since as has already been discussed, the purpose is to train men for the ministry.

I'm not positive that the work Elizabeth Eliot did as a mentor to young men is unbiblical, since she wasn't a pastor and seemed to be filling more of a Beth Moore type role in her church community. However, if the young men didn't also have a male spiritual mentor in their lives, I do think that's a problem. There are things male mentors can offer than even godly women like Eliot couldn't. That's not to say her work was wrong, just that those young men would have needed more.

As for writing biblical commentaries and books, I see no problem with that. That's just a matter of scholarship and interpreting Scripture. Even though men are (of course) going to buy and learn from the books, I think this is completely different from females with a position of church leadership.

Unknown said...

For myself, I've always seen the difference between men's and women's roles in the church as being similar to the difference between a leader and a guide. A leader's job is not only to give instructions, but to urge those under their authority to follow those instructions.
In contrast to this, a guide's job is to give help to those who choose to ask for it and to be, in a way, subordinate to those they are helping. This fits with my understanding of how women can advise men if they are asked for help.

A pastor's role is definitely that of a leader, not of a guide. Preaching to a church is a leading role: it should be about telling the congregation how their actions reflect on their faith and what should be done to prevent (or remedy) any slip-ups in living a godly life. This is why I disagree with allowing women to occupy ministerial positions in the church: because that would be putting women into the leading role of a pastor and in authority over men in the church.
On the other hand, writing a book about general Christian faith (and different aspects of living according to it) seems to me to be a way of offering people a guide, a helping hand if you like. No writer, male or female, should force anyone to read their book. It is the choice of the individual whether to read a book and to try to glean information from it and I do not see anything wrong with a woman writing a book on Christianity that other people might find helpful.
The same should apply to a seminary on Christianity which has a female speaker. No one in the audience should be forced to listen to it, but if they feel that they could learn something from the female speaker they should at least have the option to listen.

In any case, this is only my opinion as a Christian young woman (and aspiring writer, I feel compelled to mention.) I have only made my comment so long for fear of not being clear enough and not because I feel that my opinion is more valuable than anyone else's. I apologise if I've offended anyone; that was not my intention.

Barbara said...


And if her father is in his 70s and has Alzheimers? Or if he is an unbeliever?

Barbara said...

...to continue - I agree regarding instruction in the church - absolutely. But there were women in Pauls' day who had left their fathers' homes before coming to faith out of a Pagan world. They have no husbands, no fathers. But they have the church and their Lord. A practical concern, though, is that the pastors and elders - those in the church these women would go to for the answers they seek - are other womens' husbands. When there is a consuming hunger and thirst for the word day in and day out, especially as an older person coming to faith and as Spurgeon once put it, nearly afraid to put one foot in front of the other lest you offend your God (A Caution to the Presumptuous, from his Park Street Pulpit days)--- all those questions of your pastor can make his wife a little nervous. Most womens' ministries are home-and-family-focused, and rightly so, but they don't have much to say to older working divorced women without growing families). And when your dad isn't able to field your questions, but the hunger and thirst to know God in truth and in His Word is there and burning, moment by moment with a million questions almost like a preschooler, one goes to the only one she can go to: the Author - and it is by His great grace that He has provided good bible teaching online and especially through such formats as online offerings to listen and be taught by various seminary offerings so that we can seek out the answers to the questions that burn in our hearts. Absence of a husband and/or of a father just leads us to the One who is the husband to the widow and father to the fatherless. As a woman, I cannot despise the good, sound teaching available to me through these venues. The only one capable of satisfying that thirst is God Himself, and He uses those in mighty ways as they become part of the larger means by which I am equipped to serve others while knowing firsthand His faithfulness to His promise to be found by those who seek Him with all of their hearts.

Aaron Snell said...

Dan -

Are you sure you're not misunderstanding Burke? I read him to be in agreement with the overall thrust of the comments here.

Zorro! said...

Barbara - I would rather talk about what scripture says, no what it doesn't. "what-if" questions could be asked all day and very few people are satisfied by the answers.
I do think you can look to scripture for the answer.
A woman in that situation, I would think, is to be treated the same as a woman whose husband is an unbeliever, or in his 70's and has Alzheimers. I know scripture elsewhere speaks about what to do with unbelieving spouses, I don't see how it would not be the same with unbelieving parents.

How is the honor which we are commanded to give to parents and different than the honor we are commanded to give a spouse?

Did God make a mistake by giving a Christian non-Christian parents?

In the same way, there are situations where a person is married to a non-Christian, or a "never-will be" Christian. Paul gives great advice as to how to comport yourself under those circumstances.

I also think that is why orphans and widows - those who are outside of the natural structures of living - they are singled out as particular people who must be helped and ministered to.
Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. One example is in James chapter 1 which says "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

I'm no pastor, but if I were you, if you are in a "what if..." situation like you asked, you might want to present that to a pastor...

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

Barbara, that sounds an awful lot like this:

"What about the people in Third World Countries who don't have the bible? You can't tell me God isn't saving them because they don't have a bible. Because of this I believe that scripture is insufficient; God has to be doing something for them to or else it wouldn't be fair."

You see, one form of judgment on a nation is that women are given places of authority (Isaiah 3:12).

And I don't mean to say that the situation you're presenting is God's judgment on that person; it could be, but I'm not going to make the same mistake as the disciples with the blind man. But just because you have a widow and/or orphan who has no care-giver doesn't mean that the rules change, especially considering what the scripture teaches about honoring our parents. That's where mercy and the church come into play, and it is that child's responsibility to honor their unbelieving parent as much as possible without violating the command of God.

Aaron Snell said...

To clarify: it seems that what is in view in Denny's article is the public teaching of the Bible in a parachurch setting (which of course doesn't address your question about woman writers and commentators and if their work is analogous to the public teaching of the Word or not).

Zorro! said...

Barbara - I published my response to you before I saw your second comment --
You make an excellent point about the availability of free online education. You will not get any titles from it -- but I certainly find no lack of knowledge or expertise, all for free. And beyond that - lots of people who have had that training who are willing to respond to genuine questions about things that may not have been addressed elsewhere on the internet.
Anybody with an internet connection today has an almost limitless amount of things to learn from.

I, at least, am satisfied.
Now you do not get practical experience so much from the internet.
Like so many others have already argued - pastoral training is much more than a books education.

Fifty years ago, maybe less, a person who wanted to learn much more about the Bible would probably need to get to a school or be under someone who specialized in it.
Today we have the internet.
What is lacking from internet learning, necessarily, is widespread pastoral education/apprenticeship. Which is what churches/seminaries would hopefully be doing.

Zorro! said...

**to clarify - I am not saying the internet replaces the Church as the place where the saints are equipped. But as far as being a resource for knowledge, it is great.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara said...

Mr. Greenwell, if you read my comments that way, then you misread me completely. I would refer you to my initial comment farther above.

Mr. Zorro, I was only responding to the idea that women shouldn't directly benefit from seminary education (without a need to make a career out of it), particularly those who do not have husbands to ask our questions (I would also refer you to my initial comment above).

Good day, sirs.

Sweet Lei said...

Chantry, thanks for giving such a comprehensive answer to my question. I did mean it more in the first sense than the second.

The way I see it-the seminary I went to already allowed women, and encouraged women to apply. My going or not going wasn't going to decide whether there would be women in the classroom (in fact, some of the professors were women). I wanted the best education I could get, not so I could say "I'm a graduate of such and such", but so that I would have the best tools to understand Scripture.

And I agree, if one takes a view that it's wrong for women to be in seminary, you don't have to present an equal alternative; wrong is wrong (just like you don't have to present a woman with an equal platform as a pastorate if you're going to say she can't speak from the pulpit). But I just can't see how your argument expresses anything more than your own personal preference.

Sweet Lei said...

This may be misguided or partly off-topic, but sometimes it seems as if complementarians take a certain stance just to show how un-feminist they are. "Women preachers? We don't even let ours attend seminary!"

Have the men in this discussion considered how hard it is for some women to come to celebrate what the Bible teaches about gender roles? It requires a complete shift in thinking when you grow up being told "Anything he can do, you can do better, sister!" Luckily God made His directions pretty clear and unavoidable. But when people start tacking on extra-biblical prohibitions, then that seems intolerable. "Wait, I spent years coming to terms with what God really says on this, and you're saying that that's not enough?"

I've had a lot of conversations with women who get really sad about this issue, because they feel like second-class citizens in the church, sometimes, because heaven forbid we seem a little too egalitarian. Why don't we just put a couple of fences around the Law, just to make sure the women stay in line?

When I ask, "What is according to the mind of Christ?" and look in Scripture, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, their is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). I'm not going to pull the egalitarian exegetical sleight of hand, but I would regard this as a general statement to be informed by the more specific ones. That is, unless another passage adds more information about a specific case all of those groups have the same privileges and obligations without distinction in the church. Of course, there are lots of other passages dealing with leadership; and those other Scriptures clarify that all women and a lot of men are unqualified for leadership. But if Jesus had wanted to make the point that special training was for men only, He could have told Mary, "Go help Martha in the kitchen, I can't be a man to my manly disciples while you're in the way." But He said, "But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42). How could that be clearer?

Jim Pemberton said...

First, I find this discussion very helpful. I'm jazzed that most here are complementarian realizing that so many outside of this discussion are not.

Some observations considering what has been discussed:

1. Given that we are all at various stages of sanctification, the church will likely never see ideal biblical familial situations as normative until the resurrection:

a. Many men are less educated or even less inclined to seek education than their wives or daughters.

b. Many men are absent in the family.

c. Most men who are present don't lead their families as they ought.

2. Nothing in 1 mitigates the biblical principles.

3. But it should cause us to consider the place of teaching and learning in the church in light of the situation of our members. In other words, how should we preach and teach in order to minister to the needs of the people we are called to minister to? Too many pastors don't take thin into consideration. The idea is to talk in other people's sleep and wonder why it doesn't make a difference. Something is missing if this is the caliber of pastor we are turning out in our seminaries. I've known several men who have done better. I've never known a female pastor (and I have known several) who has done better.

4. The key pastoral training isn't in seminary, but in active pastoral ministry over a period of time.

5. If we exhort people to read their Bibles, we are remiss if we don't give them every educational tool to understand what they are reading. I know too many people who read their Bible all the time and aren't positively impacted by it. They approach it with bad ideas and come away with similarly bad ideas. They approach it with a bad attitude and come away with a bad attitude. Then they lift themselves up as great Christians because they read their Bible all the time.

6. Providing the best education we can for our pastors doesn't mean that we should be chintzy in educating non-pastors. All Christians are all called to be ministers and we should all endeavor to understand God better through the study of his revelation to us. The Body of Christ is the best source for this and the teachers among us should work diligently to teach the rest with the highest quality of teaching they can.

Susan said...

Hi Zorro!

I was thinking so fast last night that I knew I wasn't completely clear in what I said (not that it was all correct, either). I used Matthew 18 as an example because Rachael mentioned that the brother who spoke harshly with his wife thought Rachael had violated 1 Tim 2:12. Under this framework, if only sisters were present to witness the episode, none of them (in this brother's mind) would have any justification to confront him. I don't know if I had read Rachael's comment correctly, but I had assumed that Rachael was the only third party present. If that were indeed the case, then I think she had every right to confront him then and there. (Yes, you and I both agree that the sin is not just toward the wife alone--anyone present, being scandalized by it, can say something.)

The latter part of my comment was half-baked. Still thinking about the brother in Rachael's particular example, I surmised that the brother would probably consider it more appropriate if Rachael's husband confronted him about it instead. But let's say Rachael, the only third party present, felt scandalized, kept silent, and then told her husband, then wouldn't she be violating Mt 18:15? That was my reasoning. I realize that there is probably flaw somewhere, but right I'm a bit too tired to see it, so this poor attempt at clarification will stand as is.

As for women enrolling in seminaries, I wonder what our brothers here think of Westminster in SoCal. They do admit female students there (not for pastoral prep., of course).

DJP said...

Here I simply must step in.

Please refrain from using "impact" as a verb, unless you're referring to colons or wisdom teeth.

Thank you.

DJP said...

More seriously, Jim, to seize the teachable moment:

The reason you're able to enjoy this discussion on common ground is because we police our metas, and folks who hate this Biblical doctrine have given up on us as a waste of time (or have been banned).

I could point you to some blogs where you can see what happens when that isn't the case. In short, a discussion like this could never happen. The meta would be overtaken by folks insisting that you prove to their satisfaction that round really is the best shape for a wheel.

Tom Chantry said...

Sweet Lei,

Chantry, thanks for giving such a comprehensive answer to my question. I did mean it more in the first sense than the second.

You know, I kind of thought so. Thanks for not taking my response in a negative way.

The way I see it-the seminary I went to already allowed women, and encouraged women to apply. My going or not going wasn't going to decide whether there would be women in the classroom (in fact, some of the professors were women). I wanted the best education I could get, not so I could say "I'm a graduate of such and such", but so that I would have the best tools to understand Scripture.

Good point, and honestly, my issue is not so much with women who attend as with the seminaries and the way they conduct their business. If a seminary allows and encourages women students, and if a woman finds that her husband, her pastor, and her elders are all fine with her going, then who am I? Just some guy who thinks the world ought to be run differently than it is, I guess.

My complaint is against the seminaries. I believe they have one task, and that this task is absolutely critical. I believe that by broadening their focus they have taken their eye of the goal, and along the way weakened themselves. I have grave doubts about how they arrived at their decision. Their decision being what it is, I still wouldn’t advise a woman to attend seminary (or anyone else with no chance of being a pastor), but then again, I don’t imagine that I am the head or even the counselor of every other Christian.

The same thing goes for Dan’s initial question: he asked, “Should women be seminary professors?” and I heard, “Should seminaries have women professors?”

And I agree, if one takes a view that it's wrong for women to be in seminary, you don't have to present an equal alternative; wrong is wrong (just like you don't have to present a woman with an equal platform as a pastorate if you're going to say she can't speak from the pulpit). But I just can't see how your argument expresses anything more than your own personal preference.

Thank you for seeing the internal consistency of my argument, that is heartening. I wholly admit that my opinion is my own, but I can’t say I like the language “personal preference.” That suggests that I just don’t like women in seminary, as though it were all just a matter of style. It’s a short step from suggesting that I’m anti-woman.

In fact, my position is one of carefully considered conviction, based on 1) a biblical understanding of the unique place of preaching in the ministry of the church (contra Jim P.’s comment, I’m afraid), 2) a historical understanding of what seminaries are and what they are meant to do, 3) a biblically-informed conviction that this purpose must be fulfilled and that seminaries are therefore justified - provided that they meet this aim, 4) a varied seminary experience in which I was often convinced that diverse goals and a needlessly diverse (not racially or culturally, but diverse in terms of goals) student body distracted an otherwise excellent faculty from performing their main task, and 5) roughly twenty years of reflection on the nature and challenges of ministerial education.

In other words, it’s not a matter of preference. If my conclusions are wrong, they’re wrong in substance. My problem isn’t that women in the classroom somehow offends my sensibilities.


Tom Chantry said...

(...cont. from above)

This may be misguided or partly off-topic, but sometimes it seems as if complementarians take a certain stance just to show how un-feminist they are. "Women preachers? We don't even let ours attend seminary!"

Not only is that not how I reached my position (see above), it is not historically valid. For hundreds of years, no women attended the institutions where ministers would attend. In the 1970s that began to change. Those of us who think it’s a mistake are not taking things a step further, we’re simply saying we think those changes were a mistake.

Have the men in this discussion considered how hard it is for some women to come to celebrate what the Bible teaches about gender roles? It requires a complete shift in thinking when you grow up being told "Anything he can do, you can do better, sister!" Luckily God made His directions pretty clear and unavoidable. But when people start tacking on extra-biblical prohibitions, then that seems intolerable. "Wait, I spent years coming to terms with what God really says on this, and you're saying that that's not enough?"

Wow, that really resonates. I think you’re exactly right: we are culturally programmed to approach this question in non-biblical paradigms. But ask yourself, does that mean that when we’ve begun to adopt a biblical paradigm, we’re done? Or is it just possible that it takes time to work out all the implications of that better paradigm?

I've had a lot of conversations with women who get really sad about this issue, because they feel like second-class citizens in the church, sometimes, because heaven forbid we seem a little too egalitarian. Why don't we just put a couple of fences around the Law, just to make sure the women stay in line?

Don’t take this the wrong way, but after reading all your comments, this paragraph seems beneath you. Are we really going to determine this discussion based on emotional states? And working out the implications of biblical principles is not necessarily “putting fences around the law.”

When I ask, "What is according to the mind of Christ?" and look in Scripture, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, their is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). I'm not going to pull the egalitarian exegetical sleight of hand, but I would regard this as a general statement to be informed by the more specific ones. That is, unless another passage adds more information about a specific case all of those groups have the same privileges and obligations without distinction in the church. Of course, there are lots of other passages dealing with leadership; and those other Scriptures clarify that all women and a lot of men are unqualified for leadership. But if Jesus had wanted to make the point that special training was for men only, He could have told Mary, "Go help Martha in the kitchen, I can't be a man to my manly disciples while you're in the way." But He said, "But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42). How could that be clearer?

I’m not going to argue with you here, and I’d just say that I hope I haven’t sounded anywhere as though I don’t think women ought to think, or be educated, or know the Scriptures, or study theology. My whole argument is that seminary is quintessentially ministerial (in the old-fashioned “ministry of the word” way that Dan so despises - sorry for my repeated use of that word) and that as such, both the students and professors there ought to be men who are qualified or are likely going to be qualified to fill the pastoral office.

Zorro! said...

Thanks Susan, I think we are in agreement.

As for the question about if she would be violating Matt 18 in having her husband confront the other husband -- I think it would violate it according to the letter - but not in spirit.
I do not think she is required to go to her husband, or through him, but I can't see how she would be wrong. I would think that some things shared between spouses is not the same as a public accusation. The husband would have the responsibility of seeing what is true though, since he didn't witness it.

My perspective about authority is very much shaped by the last decade (a full third) of my life in the military.
I think this concept bears out in other scriptures - along the line of the man being the representative head of the family.
I know I would probably want my child to come to me. She is only a month old right now, but I guess it's good to think of these situations.

Estelle said...

Christ came to set the captives free, he gave sight to the blind and speech to the voiceless.He treated women with dignity and conversed with them as equals, much to the shock and horror of his disciples. At His Resurrection, He charged Mary Magdalene to announce to the men that He is Risen and He poured out His Spirit on men and women alike, even His mother, at Pentecost.

The interpretation that women may not teach men or in any way tell them what to do, especially in the body of Christ, leads to arrogance which, last time I checked, is not found among the fruit of the Spirit nor the Beatitudes.

Who can dictate through whom God will speak? Did Moses expect a burning bush? Or Balaam that his donkey would talk? And a carpenter? From Nazareth?!

The dissonance between this spirit of arrogance and the example of my Lord, plus the many women I see God using around me, led me to re-evaluate the translations and interpretations of the passages in the epistles relating to women. I have become convinced that the traditional interpretation, as held by many on this site, is not what Paul or Peter intended and actually diminishes the Body of Christ, both the men and the women. Instead of a crown of beauty, it gives us ashes, mourning instead of joy, despair instead of praise.

trogdor said...

So just to be clear - obeying the direct command of God is arrogant, but defying it is Spirit-filled Beatitudinal humility. Got it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Chantry said...

Right, Trog.

Or, to put it another way, round really isn't the best shape for a wheel.

Did it really take 60 hours for that comment to show up?

DJP said...

Trog and Chantry FTW on this one. Otherwise, Estelle, read the article and Scripture and the other posts in this blog. Authentic Christian praxis is believingly submitted to Christ's Lordship as exercised in His inerrant, sufficient Word.

Which necessarily also involves affirming His law about the role relations between men and women, as sketched at the post's beginning. This post (as I explain) precedes not from "Gee, did God say anything about men and women?" to "Given what God said about men and women, how do we apply in these areas?"