women in the ministry

This tag is associated with 11 posts

The Unacknowledged Teachers: an argument for women pastors.

An argument for the position of egalitarianism (the position that women are not to be restricted from certain offices in the church):

1) Women say things in Scripture which are not condemned (cf. Deborah’s song, Mary’s Magnificat which is used in liturgical worship, Ruth’s words which are used in wedding ceremonies, Esther’s story and her actions, etc., etc.). [Edit: this premise must be made more clear. The things women say in Scripture are not simply not condemned, but are often explicitly centralized. The Song of Deborah; Ruth’s words to Naomi; the magnificat; etc. These words are made into liturgies and used for teaching. Yet they are the words of women. Thanks to Adam at Unworthy Yet Redeemed for pointing out this flaw in the argument. Consider P1 to be modified to “Women say things in Scripture which are centralized and utilized for church liturgies and teaching.”]

2) All Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (1 Timothy 3:14-17).

3) Those things which women say in Scripture teach us truths useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (1, 2).

4) If we use truths women teach us in Scripture to teach doctrine/righteousness/etc., we should not exclude women from the ministry. (Premise)

5) We use truths women teach us in Scripture to teach doctrine/righteousness/etc. (1-3)

6) Therefore, we should not exclude women from the ministry (4, 5, modus ponens).

Defense of premise 1: I cited examples in the argument itself. See Judges 4-5; Luke 1:46-56; Ruth 1:16-17 (and the rest of the book); the book of Esther; these are just a few examples.

Defense of premise 2: Again, directly from Scripture: 1 Timothy 3:14-17.

3 follows from 1 and 2.

Premise 4 is likely to be the most controversial of these premises. The position of those who hold that women should not be ordained into the office of the ministry (complementarianism) is generally based upon the suggestion that women should not teach doctrine in a public setting (see more on this below). Therefore, I think that premise 4 must be accepted by complementarians because a denial of this premise would undermine their position. In other words, if one wants to hold that premise 4 is false, they would have to provide a different reason to exclude women from the ministry. Premise 4 simply states that which the sides agree upon. Ultimately, the strength of premise 4 will depend upon one’s definition of “the office of the ministry.” However, if one’s definition of “office of the ministry” includes “teaching”; “teaching doctrine”; “rebuking” [those who need correction]; etc., then premise 4 is correct.

Further, premise 4 could be weakened so that its conclusion would be not quite as strong. Instead, one could reword it as:

4′) If we use truths women teach us in Scripture to teach doctrine/righteousness/etc., we should not exclude women from teaching doctrine/righteousness/etc. to others.

This modified premise will not yield the conclusion that women should not be excluded from the “office of the ministry” but it would yield the conclusion that women should be allowed to teach doctrine, righteousness, and other things no matter who the audience happens to be.

Premise 5 follows from 1-3. 6 follows via modus ponens from 4 and 5. The same could be said for 4′ and the perceived 5′ and 6′.

The language used by those who are against women preaching must be very carefully selected because they do not wish to say women cannot be teachers at the university, or that they cannot teach elsewhere–rather, it is restricted to the church. Yet the argument above would be specifically useful for permitting women to teach in the church. After all, their words are used to teach continually. Whenever the Magnificat is sung or spoken, we use the words of Mary to teach us truths about Jesus. Whenever we read the story of Ruth or use her words in our wedding vows, we use them authoritatively.

Another way we could put this argument would be “If it is okay for women to compose sections of the Bible, perhaps we should let them teach it?” (quoted from Lamb, 64, citation below). I think the answer to the question is eminently obvious: yes

Therefore, women are already acting as a kind of “unacknowledged teacher” in the church: their very words are being used to tell us about God. I conclude that women should not be excluded from the ministry.

Note on terminology: by “teach” I am explicating the role of “teacher” in the church–the pastor.

Part of this argument was developed from a reading of God Behaving Badly by David Lamb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 64-65, wherein he states “If it is okay for women to compose sections of the Bible, perhaps we should let them teach it?” (64). 

SDG.

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