Thursday, January 25, 2007

The 612 SBC Rules about Women in Ministry

It's unbelievable how the Pharisees have gripped control of the SBC. The Pharisees of the first century had taken 10 God-given commandments and created 612 man-made ones. The Pharisees of the 21st century have taken culturally connected and difficult to interpret scriptural teachings about women to reduce women to roles only imagined by Muslim extremists.

The case: Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary, recently terminated a proven Hebrew scholar for being a woman. His justification: The only people qualified to teach future pastors are people who are qualified to be pastors. And pastors must, of course, be men.

Once again, the biblical material isn't taken seriously at all here by Paige Patterson. Paul prohibited women from teaching men ONLY because were not educationally qualified to teach men. Paul cares deeply that the teachings of Jesus be purely preserved and not corrupted by false teachings. And since women had not been allowed to participate in the educational system of the Jewish faith and had only recently been invited to participate with men in the Christian church, they were most likely to introduce error into the mix.

The issue for Paul is not gender. It's education.

That's why the women were interrupting the worship services in I Corinthians. They didn't undrestand what was going on and were questioning their husbands about everything that was happening. That's why women were divorcing their husbands and not having sexual relations with them. They thought that with their growing knowledge, they had become like angels, needing neither marriage nor sex. (I believe the second part of this belief is still rampant among many married women!) That's why Paul did elevate Phoebe to deacon and Junias to apostle (how inconvenient for Patterson). These were educated women who had proven that they could pass along the faith without error.

I'm amazed at how far off Patterson is in his application of Paul's teaching. First, Patterson interprets Paul's prohibition about women to mean simply that women cannot serve as senior pastors. According to Patterson, Paul's teacing is evidently clear enough to allow women to serve as youth pastors and music pastors and discipleship pastors (well, only if we call them "directors"). Interestingly, Patterson doesn't believe women can serve as deacons, but not enough to add that to the Baptist Faith and Message.

Basically, women can't preach. As simple as that sounds, though, there is a little technicality here, one that I'm sure is clearly evident in the scriptures... a woman can preach if she stands behind a lecturn (not a pulpit) and we call it "teaching" and not "preaching." But just in case that teaching starts sounding like preaching, it's prefered that these women "teach" only to women-only audiences. We have to make this biblical exception because... let's face it... women preachers sell. Just ask Patterson about Beth Moore. There's hardly a better preacher out there. But of course, I wouldn't know because Beth Moore's audience is clearly a women-only audience. But what happens when a man get's ahold of one of her DVD's? I suggest that Patterson put a disclaimer on Lifeway's Beth Moore products releasing him from responsibility should a man happen to get ahold of those resources.

I predict that within the year, Patterson will reach rule 612 on how to interpret this one commandment.

But here's my favorite irony in all of this. If it's true that Paul was concerned about education and not gender, then there's a big laugh to be had here. If my interpretation is right, then Patterson is a grieviously ignorant male passing along scriptural error while refusing to allow a proven female scholar to pass along the truths of the gospel. How sad.

For a related article...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said! I'm learning more all the time about the things in the "Baptist" world that are based more on TRADITION than on biblical principles. It is a little disconcerting to realize that some things that I was told as a child, as a teen, and as a young adult were not so much scriptural as they were self-imposed restrictions handed down for generations. It is like being freed from prison when you learn what the Bible REALLY says!

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Donna M. Clingenpeel said...

Perhaps he will need to do a further indepth study of I Corinthians to correctly understand what was really happening then.

The bible is full of stories of women of faith who got things done, who put their lives, families and business on the line for their work for the Lord and His servants. Women in the Old and New testaments had every role from poet to prophet. I am reminded of Anna who devoted her life to prayer and fasting, she spoke of God to all who sought the redemption of Jerusalem. Many women of the early church who were friends of Jesus and who worked along side Paul. Let's not forget Priscilla, the wife of Aquila. Tent cloth weaver, manager of her household and yet a thorough student of the Gospel. She was so willing to put it all on the line and make great sacrifices in order to spread the word of God by teaching what the Gospels said. The amazing thing to me is that she possessed great strength as to not fear persecution that was to be faced. What about Eunice and Lois, who were along side Timothy. This trio was said to be one of the strongest spiritually. Eunice and Lois prepared Timothy for the way.

The one thing I am truly amazed when I hear opposition of Women behind the pulpit, the bible is clear all of us are ministers of the Gospel once we have professed and accepted salvation. He placed both man and women on this earth to start the evolvation of life & growth.

In the process of preaching the Gospel, every Christian plays a special part through our spiritual gifts. One may be the seed sower, another may be the water' and yet another may have the privilege of reaping the harvest.

Bottom line, God asks us to obey Him, if we will do our part and leave the results up to Him.

Choose a woman to be in the Pulpit, to answer the call, to be a part of the sowing and watering of his Kingdom? How can that be?

So what is our respondsibility when we as women get the calling? You know that feeling deep in our souls, the one quaking that keeps us up at night and by day has us yearning for more of Him, that unsettling we feel to grasp more, be more and reach His people more? Not limited to just men or else, God would not have given so many women the gifts we need to perservere, in His name!

Here, here, dear Pastor... Well said!

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose if Dr. Patterson used I Corinthians 14 as his sole proof-text on making his decision he could be in error. However, the subject is not that simple. If you consider the two parallel passages in I Timothy 2:12-14 and I Corinthians 11:8-9, including them in your exegesis, we arrive at a totally different conclusion. Paul not only forbids women to teach men in I Timothy but he also forbids them to exercise authority over men. And what reason does Paul give for this directive? Not education or cultural distinction; but because of God's purposeful and subordinate role of the helpmate. While women clearly were deprived culturally in the 1st century it does not erase the intended design of women in Paul's application. Another point that I feel noteworthy, are Paul's instructions for church leadership. They are always in terms of man. "A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife...".
Furthermore, regarding historic women leaders in the church; we need to be conscience of our hermeneutic. Are these women contained in texts that are descriptive or prescriptive? You can not build doctrine on descriptive passages alone, the descriptive have to be interpreted in light of the prescriptive. Which is what I believe we have here.
So in my view I do not find fault in Dr. Patterson's decision. I feel that his decision was both difficult and spot on.

Finally, I don't think it is fair to cry 'Pharisee' on Paige Patterson. This is not a unique view and I would argue that it is the historic view.

BTW, The Torah contained 613 laws not 612, and certainly not 10. The problem the Pharisees had was that they preferred the traditions of man over the 613 commandments of God. A classic example can be found in Mark 7:6-13.

The previous comments all withstanding: I love the blog (sans Rob Bell ;^P )and have enjoyed reading it. The pictures of the coffee shop look awesome too! I would definitely give you my business.

Peace brother!
Tacoma, Wa

3:37 PM  
Anonymous David Simmons said...

Thanks for your post Josh. The two parrallel passages you mention can also be seen in a different light as well. When Paul refers to Eve's "subordinate" position in the garden as reason for women not teaching men, Paul could simply have been citing an example of a mis-led woman effectively leading a man down the wrong path. Just as a deceived Eve could bring great damage, so could deceived 1st century women with a weak educational background and high succeptability introduce false teachings into the church. It's possible Paul cited Eve simply to emphasize the place of women, but it's also possible he was simply citing an illustration.

Also, the fact that Paul speaks in masculine terms doesn't necessarily mean he was prescribing male-only leadership. Could it be that the audience he was writing to was one with all male leadership. If so, it makes sense to say "husband of one wife." You wouldn't say "have only one spouse (i.e. NRSV)" if you were talking just to men. Certainly, most churches at that time had male only leadership, but couldn't it have been because of the steep learning curve for women, not the inability of women to lead?

Male only language has also been used to mean men and women. We wouldn't take Jesus' desire that "all men come to repentance" to mean that he didn't want women in the kingdom. Or that Paul only wanted "brothers" to offer a living sacrifice. I could see Paul writing to an audience that included the deaconness Pheobe (Rom. 16:1), and saying "Pheobe, Frank, Bill.... you need to be the husband of one wife," and they would have known that it included Phoebe too.

What about... Pheobe as deacon? Junias as apostle? Were these slip-ups on Paul's part? And in I Tim. 3:11, Paul refers to deacon's wives (NIV), but the footnote says that it could be translated, "deaconnesses". Actually, that IS the literal reading. It's the feminine word for deacon. I think the NIV editors chose "deacon's wives" over the more literal reading simply because they knew who would be buying their Bibles.

Another huge issue to me is our application of this. If it is prescriptive that women not teach men or have authority over them, then how do we apply that in today's church. Most application is arbitary. As confident as most are in the "clear" teachings on this matter, the application is definitely cloudy. Deacons? no. Youth pastors? yes. Senior Pastor? Never. Assoc. pastor? hmmm. not sure. Those rules change with time.

Lastly, my point is not to argue that women can be Senior Pastors. I'm not 100 percent certain of any argument I've put forth here. I'm just saying that this is a much cloudier issue that we think it is. Remember, this is never an issue that is addressed by Paul in primarily fashion. It's always a secondary issue. Paul is never given the chance to say, "Hey, let me stop and tell you about my views on women in ministry." He's talking about decorum in worship, polygomy among spiritual leaders, and false beliefs among new Christians. We just happen to overhear tiny slivers of statements about women in the church along the way.

All I'm saying is, let's bow a little in humility over an issue that has serious complexity and consequences. If we get to heaven and find out that our overconfident interpretations excluded women that God never intended to exclude, we just might wish we had allowed more grace in the issue.

PS. I stand corrected. 613 it is. Even though the Torah is said to have 613 commands, I refer to them as "man-made" because of the specific, non-biblical applications that they gave to them (i.e. condemning Jesus for healing, picking fruit, etc. on the Sabbath.) ulitmately, their focus on these little commands caused them to miss the Great Commands.

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word deacon (diakoneo) was not a religous office prior to the book of Acts. And as I am sure you are well aware it simply means servant. So to suggest that Pheobe absolutely served as a "deacon" is problematic.
Junias also has her/his issues. We do not know that Junias was a women. Actually, there is some good evidence that Junias was a man. It could probably be argued from either direction. Whoever Junias was they certainly were not holding the office of Apostle. There were only 13 Apostles (not counting Judas) Apostle simply means a "called out one" or "messenger".
I am sure we could go round and round on this. People have were for a long time before we showed up. My concern was for Dr. Pattereson's name. He is a respected teacher and deserves better than to be libeled as a "grieviously ignorant male" who perpetuates bad teaching. Besides that he is our brother in the faith.

9:46 AM  

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