I realize that I run the risk of severely caricaturing viewpoints when writing posts like this. I assure the reader in advance that this is not my goal. So, if things seem a little over-simplified or caricatured I invite you to jump in and add whatever clarification you feel is helpful.

Having provided my disclaimer —

Have you ever been in a “Should women be allowed to preach, teach men, be the pastor of a church?” conversations?

Yes. Yes you have. We all have. And we will continue to be in those conversations until Jesus comes again.

Even here at ThinkTheology there has been quite a bit of work done to encourage conversation about this never-ending question.

As with many theological ideas, we tend to want to answer either “yes” or “no” to the questions rather than getting clarification, discussing caveats and nuances, or asking if there are more than two (possibly false) choices. For example, I propose that there are at least four views floating around — and you are free to add a fifth, sixth, or seventh for our dialogue. You’re also free to tweak my description of the four views I’m summarizing here.

What you will see as you read is that there is not one single Bible verse quoted in this post, and I want the reader to know that I have done this on purpose. For the sake of wanting more theological dialogue here, it is important for me not to load up any particular position with a bunch of proof-texts (that would actually be easy to do). If dialogue ensues about the various positions in the comment threads, my guess is that Bible verses (and what they do or do not mean) will abound, and then we can start thinking theologically, biblically, and practically together.

Here are the four views I’ve heard in most discussions about the question:

1. Chauvinism –

A view that excludes women from most everything in public gatherings believing that they are to keep silent in church, and are especially never to serve as the lead pastor of a Church, or to teach men in a public church meeting — precisely because of their gender. To allow this, in the chauvinistic view, is tantamount to rebellion against God and His authoritative word.

Proponents of this view might say something like, “God calls men to be the leaders in His Church.”

Those who hold the Chauvinism perspective are, in their own defense of their position, simply using what the Bible teaches in order to arrive at this perspective. They do not believe that the view is in any way based on their baggage, their prejudice, or their preference. It’s just the word of God.

2. Complementarianism –

A view that assigns roles and responsibilities to men and women on the basis of their gender rather than their particular capacities (in other words, in this model a male who is a bad Bible teacher would have to be the only one allowed to teach if it was him and a room full of women, and a good female bible teacher would not be allowed to teach men ever, even if she was more capable than all the men — because she has female anatomy, but could teach women and children). 

Proponents of this view might say something like, “God values men and women just the same, but limits them to specific functions based on their gender.”

Those who hold the Complementarian perspective are, in their own defense of their position, simply using what the Bible teaches in order to arrive at this perspective. They do not believe that the view is in any way based on their baggage, their prejudice, or their preference. It’s just the word of God.

3. Egalitarianism –

A view  that sees both men and women as equal participants in salvation, the receipt of God’s spirit, the mission to reclaim the human race in Jesus, and thus allowing each person’s gift and relative personal and spiritual maturity to define their function in the body of Christ irrespective of their gender.

Proponents of this view might say something like, “In Christ there is neither male nor female. Neither a male nor a female should be a leader or a teacher if they are disqualified by character or capacity. But neither a male nor a female should be limited in any regard if they have both the character and capacity to lead and teach.”

Those who hold the Egalitarian perspective are, in their own defense of their position, simply using what the Bible teaches in order to arrive at this perspective. They do not believe that the view is in any way based on their baggage, their prejudice, or their preference. It’s just the word of God.

4. Feminism and/or matriarchy –

A typically justice-oriented view insisting on things like (a) female dominance as a way of righting a wrong or as an act of social justice, or (b) contrived equality as a way of structurally mitigating against male dominance (i.e. “We will always have one female minister, board member, deacon, etc. for every one male minister, board member, deacon, etc.).

Proponents of this view might say something like, “For too long women have been held back by chauvinism, misogyny, and even by complementarianism. There is a wrong that must be righted, and the only way to do it is through this act of justice. Therefore, a woman will be our next choice for xyz ministry or position no matter what.”

Those who hold the Feminist/Matriarchy perspective are, in their own defense of their position, simply using what the Bible teaches in order to arrive at this perspective. They do not believe that the view is in any way based on their baggage, their prejudice, or their preference. It’s just the word of God.

What position do I hold?

Just like my mother in law and my wife (read that link!) — and — did I mention, Luke Geraty?! I hold to position #3.

How about you?

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