Skip to comments.Women Preachers in Church: A Response to John Piper
Posted on 06/10/2018 10:31:59 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
The question was: does 1 Timothy 2:12 leave open the possibility that women are permitted to preach in the weekly gathering of the local church, as an extension of, or under the authority of, the male elders of the church? And my answer is no. Neither of those qualifications (as an extension of, or under the authority of) overrides the teaching of verse 12. Paul would say: a female is not a proper extension of male leadership. That doesn’t make sense. That’s a contradiction of male leadership, not an extension of male leadership. And a woman teaching men, with authority, week in, week out, or every other week, or regularly in an adult Sunday school class, or whatever: a woman teaching men, with authority, under the elders, is not under the authority of the New Testament. She may be under the authority of the elders, but she’s not under the authority of the New Testament. And neither would they be, for putting her in that situation. So I would conclude no, it would be inappropriate for churches to do that.
Well: I have the utmost respect and affection for John Piper, who has not just been a great blessing to me theologically but also a great encouragement to me personally. But we have women preaching sermons at Kings, and thats something I have argued for and defended publicly in various contexts. So I think it’s worth explaining where I differ with Piper on this one.
Put simply, in this podcast answer, I think Piper is actually begging the question. The question is whether 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits preaching a sermon in a local church under the authority of the elders. In response, instead of demonstrating that it does, Piper assumes that it does, and then explains why appealing to the authority of the elders doesnt allow us to circumvent the authority of Scripture. Put differently, he gives no reasons for his belief that preaching a sermon in the local church under the authority of the elders necessarily involves disobeying 1 Timothy 2:12. That, as far as I can see, is the specific point at issue. (It may be worth saying that this stage: this seems to be common in complementarian circles in the US. A few months ago I had dinner discussing this point with Jim Hamilton and Denny Burk, both of whom know a fair bit about both biblical interpretation and the gender debate in America, and neither of them had even heard of a complementarian argument that preaching a sermon in a local church wasnt necessarily prohibited by 1 Timothy 2:12. The next hour was great fun.)
I dont know who asked the original question, nor what they had in mind when they did. But my guess is that they were not asking whether we are allowed to circumvent the authority of Scripture by saying we are under the authority of the elders. I suspect they were asking whether 1 Timothy 2:12 actually prohibits women preaching in a local church, under the authority of the elders, at all. Piper obviously believes that it does, but he gives no reasons for this belief here. And there are at least three good arguments not watertight arguments, perhaps, but good ones, and good enough to merit a thoughtful response to suggest that it doesnt.
First: preaching a sermon in a local church is not the same thing as teaching. In many contemporary contexts those two things can look the same, but biblically speaking, they are not necessarily identical. By no means all public speech in New Testament churches was teaching: it could be described as a word of exhortation, like both Pauls sermon in Pisidian Antioch and the letter to the Hebrews (Acts 13:15; Hebrews 13:22), or as prophecy (as in 1 Corinthians 14, where it is defined as speaking to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation), or as evangelism (which, as John Piper has rightly said in other contexts, is much of what “preaching” is really about), or the slightly mysterious word of wisdom or word of knowledge (as in 1 Corinthians 12). There are no New Testament prohibitions on women giving words of encouragement, knowledge or wisdom, or preaching the gospel, and we know for sure that women in the New Testament church prophesied (Acts 2:17; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; etc). So prohibiting someone from teaching is not necessarily the same thing as prohibiting them from preaching the gospel, delivering a sermon, speaking uninterrupted to the church from the Bible for thirty minutes, or whatever.
Second: the word teaching (didaskein) may have a much more specific referent than Piper implies, or even than I implied in the previous paragraph. This is the argument of John Dickson in Hearing Her Voice: teaching has to do with the preservation and transmission of the authentic apostolic witness to Jesus, in the era before the New Testament was written down, rather than (as we generally use it) a catch-all term for talking about the Bible in a church meeting. Dickson’s book, and in particular his thought experiment about early church worship, are well worth considering. This raises important questions about the notion that 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits what Pipers questioner called preaching.
Third: there are several places in which Paul talks about teaching without restricting it to men and/or accredited leaders, and in fact encourages the whole church to do it, as Tom Schreiner points out. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing each other in all wisdom ... (Colossians 3:16). Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in serving; if a teacher, in teaching ... (Romans 12:6-7). When you come together, everyone has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a language, an interpretation: let all be done for building up (1 Corinthians 14:26). This is the main reason for my belief that Paul uses the word didaskein in two subtly different ways, which I have called big-T and little-t teaching: sometimes he encourages everyone to participate in teaching each other (which I take to mean explaining the Scriptures to each other in a peer-to-peer way, according to gift), and sometimes, notably in the Pastorals, he is talking about Teaching (which is more like the definition and defence of Christian doctrine, by the churchs accredited leaders). In our context, incidentally, we work this out by asking all non-elders in our church who preach to submit their sermons to an elder, get their feedback on it, and only then deliver it publicly; that way, the speaker is doing the little-t teaching, and the elder is doing the big-T Teaching.
In other words, I think there are several good reasons to believe that, when Paul says didaskein de gunaiki ouk epitrepō oude authentein andros (1 Timothy 2:12), he is not necessarily prohibiting women from preaching in the weekly gathering of the local church, under the authority of the elders. Thats why we do it, anyway.
An interesting twist on all this is that Piper himself, in a previous episode of the same podcast, explained why he thought it wasnt a problem for men to listen to women preachers like Beth Moore or Elisabeth Elliot. His explanation, with which I entirely agree, was that there is a difference between preaching to people occasionally and functioning as their elder or pastor. That might, on the face of it, sound like it contradicts what he has just said about women preaching on Sundays. But my guess is that, because of his ecclesiology and his vision of what a Sunday gathering is, Piper regards preaching on Sundays as qualitatively different from preaching at conferences, such that the latter is not elders-only territory and the former is. (Again, Jim Hamilton and Denny Burk also see public Sunday ministry as a male-elder-only thing.) Personally, I disagree I dont see that distinction in the New Testament, and it wouldnt apply in our, somewhat more charismatic-flavoured, Sunday context but I can see the consistency of his position.
Anyway: I disagree with John Pipers answer. I think women can (and should) preach sermons in local churches, even as I maintain that the elders who guard and protect the church from harm (and ensure its doctrine remains faithful) are intended to be qualified men. I think Paul thought that, too. But I wouldnt want anyone to take my (or even John Pipers) word for it. Think about these things.
I have no problem at all with women becoming preachers.
So long as their heart and soul belongs to Christ.
Same as for men. If someone is sincere and knowledgeable, them shine the light of their influence and inspiration.
In today’s world, we need those people more than ever.
Here’s another one:
Complementarianism Is a Good Word that Has Been Hijacked to Wrongly Mean Authoritarianism
I believe that the problem in the modern church is the influence of women in the church as leaders and teachers. Most churches that have gone south in their doctrine have women in positions of authority.
A church elder once said to me, “I don’t have a problem with women in the clergy, I just have a problem with the women who are in the clergy.”
I had no idea what the guy who said that to me exactly meant at the time. I get it now. Not sure how that gets fixed.
Southern Baptist Convention faces showdown on #MeToo movement, churchs treatment of women
“The resolution asks the convention to confess that throughout the churchs history, men have wronged women, abused women, silenced women, objectified women by ungodly comments and ungodly acts, preyed on women, left women unprotected, failed to report injustices and evils committed against women to civil authorities established by God and failed to act out of the overflow of the image of Christ, the report stated.”
Feminism- destroying one church after another- In the end, there will be a great turning away from the concepts of Godly Religion in an effort to appease people who don’t accept God’s word in it’s entirety and wish to mold religion into their own creation-
Yep when the Order of Creation is violated, church bodies end of failing...
There is a reason that Paul gave the admonitions he did regarding the women in leadership roles. It all goes back to The Fall, and the nature or men & women, and their roles.
There is a reason why boys need a father. Does that mean every boy without a father turns out bad? Does that mean that there are no mothers who are able to adequately fill the father’s role? The answer to both is obviously, No. Likewise, we can point to women who faithfully teach The Word. However, what we’re talking about in these instances are the exceptions.
The more we as a society stray from “the rule”, the more we see society decay. This is not to say it is the fault of the women - on the contrary. If men did not so easily abdicate their roles, there would be less need for women to fill-in - to fill the leadership vacuum.
Which is why we need to heed one of Peter’s warnings - that the devil prowls around - seeking whom he may devour. So then a women seeking to fill a leadership roll needs discernment: is she responding to a call from God - or is she responding the the call of her own sin-nature - to desire authority over men in general, or over her husband in particular (Gen 3:16)?
“Watching a woman preach is like watching a dog walk on his hind legs; you are not surprised he does it badly, you are surprised he can do it at all.” Samuel Johnson
You probably do have a point there. The majority of women say they want to negotiate, meaning go along to get along with the strongest trend. Our schools are changing drastically due to this attitude. I don’t know what the right answer is. It may have to be some sort of artificial restraint such as gender quotas.
This another area hi jacked by liberal theologians. We would be wise to adhere to Gods prescribed order. First came women as clergy, that lead to gay clergy. Most liberal denominations that swayed from the Word bleed membership and the churches become purveyors of feel goo mush.
Thats the pattern Ive noticed as well. Once you deviate from the Word, all bets are off.
“Does that mean that there are no mothers who are able to adequately fill the fathers role? “
If a woman can adequately fill the roll father’s roll she would be a guy. God designed both and kids need both imput from a good man and a good woman.
Check out John Elderedge books and other Christian men’s books likely helpful too. Boys do best with men to help them in ways only men understand.
Here is the particular verse cited in the article:
1 Timothy 2:12
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
Backing up to the prior verse, 11 says: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.”
Three important points about this passage:
1. Paul is discussing conduct in the Church / Congregational Meeting.
1 Timothy 3:15
But if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
2. In both the Old and New Testaments, the Hebrew and Greek words for man and woman are the same words used for husband and wife. Therefore, it must be determined from context which meaning is intended. “Gynaiki” means woman or wife:
A critical reading of this passage indicates Paul is specifically addressing the role of wives and their husbands, and how this relationship is honored by the order in which church meetings operate.
Men represent their families in this sphere. There is to be order in the church meeting. Women demonstrate godly character in their quietness and meekness. Christ Himself demonstrated such quietness and meekness at the appropriate times. This is not a dishonor to women. It is one way women demonstrate their devotion to the Lord. Outside of the church, in family settings is where women are called to speak: They praise, give testimony, and even “prophesy” for the Lord.
It should also be noted that the modern entertainment format of the church is not how the early church operated. Men participated. They were expected to do more than sit back and listen to the sermon and watch the band or choir perform. In today’s church almost everyone is silent, other than in congregational singing.
The first eye witnesses of the resurrection were women. They were meant to testify to what they saw and heard. And they did.
3. The passage is specifically about women teaching in the church. There is only one example of a woman teaching in the church given to us in the Bible. But it is not a positive example to follow:
Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Actually, they are correct in that.
Godly men have not stepped up to the plate and stopped other men from abusing their wives.
Women are so often told they have to be in submission to their husbands and in the past, they have been instructed to go back into abusive situations, where they are getting beat, and *submit* to their husbands and pray for them.
Instead they should have called the man on the carpet and given HIM Scriptural instruction on how to treat his wife and while that does not mean kowtowing to her every whim, it certainly does include not abusing her physically, emotionally, sexually, or degrading her in public or private.
I know many men who are VERY controlling of their wives. One such situation I know of ended very tragically with him now being a widower.
I see too many men blame the woes of the world on feminism, but where were they to stand in the gap and stand against it?
Many men let it happen and are equally culpable.
A careful study of the New Testament shows that preaching was always directed towards unbelievers - never believers. Teaching was directed towards believes and unbelievers. There is no basis for preaching in church, unless a lot of unbelievers show up.
The idea that everyone’s opinion has as much value as any other is killing our culture. There are some exceptional women in this world intellectually speaking but too few of them would step aside to let a man lead. Women in my church are beating the drum for suffrage. I think their problem is pride. The minute they make a woman an elder I’m out of there.
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