“Ten Things I Learned Wrong from a Conservative Church”
by John Killinger
Seventh wrong teaching:
Religion Is a Man’s Business
There is no doubt that the God-ordained roles for men and women is an area where Satan is leveling some of his greatest attacks against Christ’s Church here on earth. This is accomplished in part by undermining the truth of God’s holy Word, as he has done from the beginning. In the garden of Eden, Satan began his temptation by saying to Eve, “Has God indeed said...?” (Genesis 3:1). He continues to use that same question today, and people in our society have begun to doubt what God has really said regarding the roles of men and women. The focus of this study is the question of God’s chosen role for men and women within the church. May the Holy Spirit help us to understand God’s intended will in this area through the truth of His holy Word!
A Look at Scripture
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul says: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).
In his first letter to Timothy Paul gives certain directives about the woman’s role in the church: “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:11-14).
These words of Paul clearly teach that the woman’s role within the church is to be one of willing submission, and that she is not to teach or exert authority over a man in the church. Any woman serving as a pastor would have to teach and exert authority over men. The office of the pastor is described as that of an overseer (episkopos). In the verses immediately following these verses, Paul goes on to give Timothy instruction about the qualifications for pastors (overseers) and then also deacons. God has determined that such positions in the church are the role and responsibility of men. Paul says that both pastors and deacons should be the “husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2,12).
The Contrary Assertions
Many within Christian churches are rebelling against this clear teaching of Scripture. Some say that certain passages don’t apply because they were conditioned by the time in which they were written. Others suggest that the apostle Paul was wrong in writing such things about women. Some even assert that Paul hated women! Killinger employs three similar ideas in his presentation here. He says –
• that the Bible teaches the superiority of men over women;
• that such a view is narrowminded since women are capable of the ministry;
• and that the Bible is not authoritative since we live in an enlightened world.
Assertion 1 – Several times in this chapter Killinger uses the word “superior” to describe the man-woman relationship. For example, he says “the Bible, that literal, inerrant old book, says they are to be the heads of their households and superior to their wives...” (p.117 – cf. p.118). Killinger is not stating what he believes in this sentence, but is his summary of what he feels is taught by the Promise Keepers organization. This assertion – that the Bible teaches male superiority – is brought up time and time again, but is completely and utterly false. The Bible teaches the equality of all people regardless of gender, age, social standing, or nationality. The same Paul also wrote to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). This Biblical teaching is not about superiority/inferiority, but God ordained roles for the good of His church.
Assertion 2 – Another thought that often put forward is that many women are just as capable of carrying out the ministry as men. Killinger reminisces about his teaching days at Vanderbilt Divinity School at a time when the “women’s lib” movement brought an influx of female students. He says that he found them “clever, capable, and entirely worthy of Christian ministry. Almost from the first, they appeared to me superior to most of the male students. They were quicker and more insightful, and their feminine perspective on everything from theology to practical ministry was refreshing and exciting” (p.121). He goes on to speak of conservative churches which “ridicule and shut out women who assert their right to enter a ministry long dominated by men, but history will show them to be narrow-minded and shortsighted. Eventually even the Roman Catholic Church will ordain female priests. It is only a matter of time and maturation” (p. 123).
Is this a right? Scripture never describes it as such (cf. Acts 20). There are many women who have been blessed by God with wonderful gifts for the ministry. Women can and should use these gifts and serve their Lord in the church, but according to God’s will. As a church, we can and should encourage women to use their gifts and to provide opportunities for them to serve their Savior in a God-pleasing way.
Assertion 3 – Killinger presents the Bible as an out-of-date book that has no application on this subject to us today. He says “Of course the Bible doesn’t promote the forwardness of women in religious matters. It is itself the product of a male-dominated society in an era when women were regarded as chattel and had almost no rights” (p. 123). While the Bible may have been written in an era where women were viewed as inferior, that is not the same as saying that “it is a product of” such a worldly idea. Nowhere does the Bible say that women are to be treated as property, or unworthy of rights. Just the opposite, the Bible clearly speaks of the equal place of women in a society that held them as inferior. Consider how the apostles Peter (1 Peter 3:1-7) and Paul (Ephesians 5:22-33) spoke of the loving relationship between the husband and the wife, and the emphasis in the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts on the important role of women in Jesus’ ministry, and the spread of the Gospel. The Bible speaks very highly of women, but emphasizes that God has given men and women specific roles to carry out.
He continues, “To refuse women the right to ordination and service in the church in any age is therefore highly unthinkable, especially in contemporary society, which, enlightened about gender roles, offers women the same opportunities as men to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, military personnel, and CEO’s” (p.124). This a prevalent thought, but it has no bearing on the role of women in the church. The God-ordained roles for men and women were not a product of the time in which the Bible was written. In 1 Timothy 2:11-14 Paul traces the origin of this principal back to the very beginning – the creation of Adam and Eve. This is a principal that does not change, even if the world we live in does. The Biblical teaching of the roles of men and women in the church is inseparably connected to the infallibility of the Bible as God’s Word. To deny this Biblical truth is to deny the authority of Scripture.
Sometimes women will look at this Biblical teaching with resentment because of the influence of the world around us, and because of the abuse of it by many men. As we consider this topic, mindful of the world that we live in, we must recognize that there is nothing wrong with God’s plan for His church. We need to show people – both men and women – that these roles were ordained by God at the creation of the world, and were established for our blessing.
Note: This study was prepared for the Bible Class at Zion Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville,
Georgia by Pastor Nathanael Mayhew.
If you would like more information about this study,
please contact Pastor Mayhew