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Question:  I have a question about your e-mail response, "Does the Bible prohibit women from preaching or teaching in the Church?" This is the first time ever I have seen you sidestep a question (Rev. 3:15). Maybe you should have divided the question (2 Tim 2:15) between teaching and preaching. Paul got the preaching right (1Cor.14:33-35) and he also got the teaching right (2Tim.1:5). I have had personal experience of women preachers exhibiting and stirring up the most bizarre sorts of behavior, and splitting up families as a result.

Response:  Well, I am certainly very sorry to hear this, but I must stand by that response. One thing I should say right from the start is that, in my view, the distinction between "preaching" and "teaching" is a false one that doesn't have any biblical support. Pastors lead by teaching. If they get too hung up in the form of their presentation, it can become mere "preaching" devoid of content, i.e., story-heavy, or rhetoric-heavy, emotionally charged, or high on entertainment. The point is that the people of God need content, they need truth. That truth comes from the Word. If the form begins to trump the content (as has largely happened in the church visible), decay and lukewarmness are inevitable (Rev.3:15).

This is certainly germane to the whole issue of "women preachers", because if the office the woman is occupying is in effect no longer truly a teaching position, if it is all now just fanfare, smoke and mirrors entertainment devoid of any real "meat", then it certainly begs the question of "what's the difference?" For once the Word is no longer central to the purpose of the assembling together of the believers (in that particular group - it is of course the reason for true, biblical assembly), then the issue of who is "preaching" is of little consequence since it is only the teaching function that is addressed in scripture – this is how one "exercises authority" (1Tim.2:12), namely, by proclaiming the truth of the Word of God (2Tim.4:2). If it has become merely a question of women performing and entertaining versus men, well the Bible doesn't say anything about this at all, either for women or for men.

That said, you are certainly correct in your observation that my previous response deliberately avoids a head-on, head-banging answer, but the answer is still pretty plain. There are certainly times where that sort of answer is appropriate and salutary, but I stand by the tack I took in that particular question too. In your experience, there may have been times when the message should have been driven home harder, and I certainly would not disagree with doing so if it were my judgment that such an approach were appropriate for the audience and the circumstances.

In my experience, whenever any one has been burned on a particular point, they are more likely to be blunt about it (your experience); on the other hand, whenever anyone has seen people hurt by overkill, they tend to tread softly. Both of these approaches have their time and place. Paul could be delicate, and he could be right up in a person's face - even in the same epistle. Compare in 1st Corinthians his hard approach on baptism and lawsuits and his delicate approach on marriage and tongues. The reason for this is that there is a right time and place and a right tone and approach for everything. That doesn't mean we always get it right, and if I got it wrong in your case, I do sincerely apologize. I have more to say about this, but at another time, another place.

I do believe it would be hard to take away from the posting that women are authorized to preach or teach in the main meeting of the local church (and your quote of 1Cor.14:33-35 is right on the money). My purpose was certainly not to defend the view that this is ever appropriate. What I was trying to do was to disabuse any who might read these words of that faulty notion without, at the same time, sending them spinning off into a cycle of reaction that would make matters worse for them. What I was trying to do was to plant a seed, as gently as possible, that might lead any and/or all so inclined away from error and into truth without engendering an unnecessary emotional reaction. In his advice on how to handle our teenagers, Paul in Colossians 3:21 tells us not to embitter them to the point that they lose heart. In other words, we are to take into account that they are not as emotionally tough as we are, and mellow our approach - not change it or water it down or compromise it, but apply it as gently as possible. We know that the woman is "the weaker vessel" (1Pet.3:7), and that weakness is as much emotional as it is physical. In the day in which we live, this approach is, in my experience and observation, even more needful at times.

I know many a good Christian woman who has felt the desire to serve God in a way that is meaningful and that makes full use of God-given talents. The issue that was weighing most heavily on my mind when I wrote this e-mail was not the issue of whether or not a woman should lead a local church (administratively or theologically - clearly she should not, and that point I believe is obvious enough in the text of the posting as well as in all of the biblical passages which touch on this subject), but rather "what about other situations, what about seminary, for example"? Can a woman be a seminary professor? This is a hot issue in the circles in which I run and one that has no easy answer in my view, especially living in a time as we do when the men are doing such a poor job of things. That principle applies equally to the average local church, but there we have, as you point out (and as I thought I had, if too delicately in your view), very clear guidance. The Bible says nothing about seminaries – they are entirely extra-biblical creations, most of which have denominational affiliations (so they are doubly a-biblical because scripture doesn't say anything about denominations either). But I know of a number of ladies who have felt called to go to seminary and some to stay. They are being shabbily treated in many cases in this sense: they are welcomed from afar (no doubt for the tuition), treated with a certain amount of suspicion once there, and often made to feel guilty about ever doing anything at all with this expensive and gruelingly gotten education (in at least one case I will not name, most female faculty were booted). I certainly wanted to be careful about being overly dogmatic about an issue upon which the scripture is silent. Clearly, women should not lead churches; clearly, they should play a role at home. In between there are a number of gray areas (like seminary) where decision-making requires tact, introspection, and seeking God's counsel. I don't want to be lukewarm; I want to be zealous for God at all times, but always according to a definite knowledge of the truth (Rom.10:2; cf. Prov.19:2), and, hopefully, never going beyond what the scriptures actually say (1Cor.4:6).

As to your personal experiences, it is certainly true that odd and affected non-biblical behavior is a serious danger sign which smacks of cult activity. Clearly, splitting up families is also a hallmark of cults: peel off the ones you can't bend to your will, and isolate those you can from outside influence (see: Read your Bible: Protection against Cults). This is equally true whether the practitioners are male or female. It makes me sick at heart to hear these kinds of things. I can only say that your persistence in God's Word and your continued following of Jesus Christ in spite of such suffering is a great testimony and an encouragement to me personally.

May you be blessed by God, for standing so strong in Jesus Christ in spite of your heart-wrenching troubles.

You might also find these links of use:

Some Questions on Church Polity

Church Polity et al.

The Local Church and Personal Ministry I

The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing

In Him who is our only sure source of strength, who is our hope of deliverance, and who is our joy forever, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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