Monday, December 18, 2006


I'm going to lay out a few thoughts on the fully-mis-worded subject of "Women in Ministry," as it is too often called. Please, for the sake of all things of value, post SOMETHING if you disagree with anything in this post. I am so tired of arguing with myself since the people who write on this topic don't ever (1) defend their position nor (2) deal with the other side. Even if you agree with a conclusion but see something wrong in the path getting there, WRITE SOMETHING!!

So let me clarify: the issue is, can a woman be in authority over a man? Or, can a woman be in the top-authority position (typical example, "senior pastor")? This post will not deal with the issue of having a senior pastor since it is only used as an example common to us today.

1) Paul writes about how a woman cannot teach/exercise authority (v.12) over a man. I would take, as is common among the commentaries (but evidently not among the Greek-to-English interpreters), that "teach" and "exercise authority" are appositional. Thus I would write it, "teach-exercise authority" as if they mutually define each other.

2) Paul writes that a male has headship over a woman, just like the Father has headship over Jesus.

So let me stop there with the Biblical quotes and make a few observations in no particular order:
First, Jesus is fully qualified to be in-charge, but He wasn't allowed to be [parallel: why can't women lead when they are equally 'qualified']. Makes one wonder if this is a question of "qualification."
Second, both times, Paul refers to Creation as his rationale.
Third, Paul has most of the self-explaining writing on this subject

It is very common to also read our current need-for-power into Paul's context. Paul's use of Jesus and the Father or the Church and Jesus as a parallel/metaphor seems to imply that he (Paul) did not view leading the same way we do since the examples and metaphors we use have nothing in common with Paul's (e.g. slavery, C.E.O., etc.).

-- First Observation: Leading is supposed to be an act of Love and seen as a gift to the followers. If this isn't happening, then the leading is bad. No matter the gender of the leader! Please don't deal with bad leadership as some kind of male-dominance issue.

-- Second Observation: The common critique is that this issue comes from Paul's opinions (even though they almost universally cite Paul as their primary verses for male-female equality). This works its way into two, dominant threads.
First, the "obvious" male-and-female, side-by-side documentaries (e.g. Priscilla and Aquilla). This is a frustrating one to hear because it is, by definition, wholly subjective and flat-out reading into the accounts, basing the whole weight of the argument on word order. Yikes.
Second, the idea is espoused that Paul was putting his own bias and/or culture into his writings. This obviously runs into issues of how much control God kept in the writing of the Bible. I have yet to see it written (although I presume it has) that someone will come out and say, "This is my stance, and it works because I don't see God having much control over what Paul wrote." I don't subscribe to that idea of how the Bible was formed. Fine. The actual problem is this: without some kind of restraint on the writers, we have NO idea what is or is not cultural / we have no idea what is from God!! Too often I have heard in these contexts, I believe what Jesus said, not Paul. And we know what Jesus said from . . . Jewish, male writers with the same culture as Paul. Hmm. Making Paul suspect makes Matt., Mark, Luke, and John suspect, too. Then Jesus really does become God in (wo)man's image.

The other trend I see is that the whole male-over-female authority structure is an issue of the Fall and is therefore something that is reversed by Jesus and should be reversed by His Body as it ushers in the Kingdom.
Problem #1: "the Fall" refers to Gen. 3:16 where the woman is told the man will rule over her. A quick read brings up a goofy word: "desire." Susan Foh wrote an article many moons ago showing how this word "desire" translates a Hebrew word that shows up in Gen. 4:7 and Song of Solomon 7:10. Gen. 4:7 is an issue of who gets control, Song 7:10 is an issue of sexual attraction. Not too difficult to find out how Moses uses the word, go 15 verses and see it's a control issue. So we have the Fall and, as is written, the inequality starts. She has to be ruled by man.
-- why don't we see the woman's desire to control her husband / men as part of the Fall?!? It's in the same sentence! We are only going to condemn HALF the verse?!?
Problem #2: Paul, in both the examples I cite above, goes back to Creation. Pre-Fall!

Note of sadness. Two things bum me out in this: 1) we're taking whacks at the Scriptures because it's contrary to current struggles (why don't people go after forgiveness - that one's a whole lot more difficult to live out!) and (2) most women I've seen get into positions of authority end up leading just like the bone-headed males that have preceded her for the last few centuries.

There it is. My current ;-) thesis. Please hack away!! Even if you're reading this months or years after it has been posted - please respond if you disagree with one single word, phrase, sentence, idea . . .

[The real issue, for me, is the quality of the leadership which is STILL not being addressed!!]


BAB said...

David, I don't disagree with much in your post. I think that the limitation of women's participation seems to be reserved to the position of elder. I think authority and teaching have to be distinguished at some level. One of the difficult things for me, actually comes from the charismatic arguments, which appeal to men and women being given the gift of prophecy (Acts 2, 1Cor 14), which is no insignificant or unauthoritative gift.

David Malouf -- said...

I think I would have to disagree that Prophecy is necessarily an Authoritative gift. I hold to a pretty limited, almost tangential view of prophecy: speaking the specific words of God (a "Thus sayeth the Lord" kind of thing). As such, the speaker has little to no authority for they are more like messengers, conduits. Cf. the validation techniques in later 1 Cor. 14 as an example (not a rationale!!).

And aren't ALL the gifts not insignificant?!? ;-)

tedw said...

Nice work david. I'm on board with you. I appreciate your faithfulness to the text and gentleness in dealing with the issues of today - namely a misunderstanding of equality.