I Timothy 2:11-13 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”
Let me introduce this subject with four words of appeal:
1] An appeal to the authority of Scripture. Let me read to you a quotation from a famous living Christian speaker and writer. “We need to repent of the haughty way in which we sometimes stand in judgment upon Scripture and must learn to sit under its judgment instead. If we come to Scripture with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it only an echo of our own thoughts and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed he will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behaviour.” The author of those searching words is John Stott (in “Authentic Christianity”). So there is this appeal to you to recognise the authority of this particular Scripture, and closely allied to it is…
2] An appeal to the truth of Scripture. The truth of the Bible is one. Anyone can pick and mix candies from a mouth-watering counter in Woolworth’s choosing their favourite flavours and discarding those they don’t enjoy. But it is not permitted to pick and choose the truths of the Bible. If you reject what the Bible is saying in these verses, consequently other truths must also be discarded, for example, the creation and fall of our first parents as described in Genesis 2 and 3, and the doctrine of Scripture, and ultimately, I believe, that it was a Son that God had, and that he is Father. Many other truths are affected if you choose to reject one truth of the Bible. The Scripture is not like a counter loaded with chocolates and butterscotch and liquorice. You can take away from that whatever you want but there is still a candy counter left. Scripture is like a ball. If someone cuts a segment out of that then it is no longer of any use, except as a memory of what once was there.
3] An appeal to the fact that the measure of the blessing of God upon a church – or an individual Christian – hangs upon obedience to God’s will. Elisabeth Elliot tells the story of her brother Tom at the age of three. Mother had allowed the little boy to take paper bags she had been saving from the cupboard and spread them on the floor of the kitchen. This was permitted on condition that he put them all back when he had finished playing. One day his mother found the bags all over the kitchen floor and Tommy was in the living room where his father was playing the piano. When his mother called him back to the kitchen to tidy up the paper bags there was a short silence. Then a little voice piped up, “But I want to sing ‘Jesus loves me.” His father said, “You can’t sing ‘Jesus loves me’ until you’ve obeyed.” That is still true today for us all. We cannot enjoy the Lord’s blessing on our lives in praise and worship while we are defying him. Peter declares that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him (Acts 5:32).
4] An appeal to the clarity of Scripture. It does appear that whenever it teaches us about Christian behaviour then the Bible is at its most clear. The Ten Commandments are the most straightforward parts of the Bible, and there is no moral maze. Often people plead that their personal inconsistencies in daily living are due to inadequate guidance: “if only God’s Word had been clearer…” they say. But this passage, which has been read in your hearing, is straightforward. Read it in any and every translation you can lay hold of, those done by committees of scholars, or those translated by gifted individuals. Immediately you are struck by the astonishing unanimity of all the translators concerning the meaning of this text. They might be personally disagreeing with what Paul said, but never about what he said. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (vv. 11&12). Someone has pointed out that in the Prime Minister’s recent speech about the ‘forces of conservatism’ in the Labour Party conference he did not use a main verb in no less than 128 sentences. Now a main verb involves a clear commitment, and makes ambiguity difficult. Take a verb out of sentences and you break the back of meaning. Paul’s sentences here, as everywhere, are full of verbs. His meaning is unmistakable.
1] The New Testament Wants Women to Learn. (v.11)
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission,” writes Paul. He is not appealing to any custom, Jewish or Greek, nor to traditions, nor to his own personal preferences. He says, ‘Let a woman learn,’ and those words are in the form of a command. He fully expects every Christian woman to be characterised by a teachable spirit. She will go to a congregation where she can learn, and that determines her choice of a place of worship. Just as this governs a parents’ choice, when they have moved to a new town, of the church they choose, it will be where their children can learn. Eric Alexander says, “I had a young student telephone me one evening from an English city where he was at University. ‘I have just travelled two and a half hours by bus to the opposite side of the city,’ he said. ‘I have been here for eight weeks and have been around every church that I have been told about which is remotely evangelical. I have heard some marvellous music. I have been under some remarkably scintillating talks about current issues. I have listened to dialogue. I have seen drama and dancing. I have been witness to all kinds of excellent occasions of worship. But I am sitting back in this university residence this evening asking, “Will nobody in this city feed my soul?”‘”
That student had a longing to learn of his God and Saviour. Such a desire Paul would see in all the women of the church. It is significant how un-rabbinic Paul is being here. I mention that because he is often accused by critics of these verses of being typically rabbinic in appealing to Adam and Eve. But the rabbis did not require women to learn. The rabbinic schools were for boys only, though the Old Testament had exhorted women as well as men to listen and learn: “Assemble the people – men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns – so that they can listen and learn” (Deut. 31:12). So Paul does not write, “A man should learn” because the culture placed a premium on men learning. “Women, don’t lag behind the men in your knowledge of theology and Christian truth,” is Paul’s emphasis.
Let the women seriously learn, that is, in silence. The truth Timothy is preaching to them is so important that other distractions must be removed. The preacher mustn’t be in competition with musical instruments. He mustn’t be in competition with ostentatious clothing so that women are looking at one another’s hair and gold and jewels and expensive dresses – that is the context. Learn in silence. Concentrate on your learning. Let the church make sure that the acoustics are good, and that the lighting and heating assists this great enterprise of being in the school of God, that the building is not too stuffy, or the chairs too comfy (no danger of that with pews 130 years old), and pray that the minister will be a gripping teacher. Then always remember that it is as if God were teaching you by him.
So a woman should learn in quietness and full submission. If she finds herself day-dreaming, or drifting away from the sermon, stop your wandering thoughts at once, and come back to the teaching. Always keep coming back. There is a great book on this very theme entitled “A Remedy for Wandering Thoughts in the Worship of God.” Its author was Richard Steele. It was written in 1673 and it is still in print (Sprinkle Publications, PO Box 1094, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22801). When the book first came out Steele entitled it, “An Antidote Against Distractions.” How seriously our fathers viewed the vocation to learn in quietness.
If anyone needs some aid to help their concentration then let them make notes on what they have been learning. Women never honour God more than by reverently listening to his Word with the full purpose of praising and obeying him once they have seen what he has done and is doing, and what they are called to do. That is why Paul adds the words ‘with all submissiveness;’ we quietly learn the ways of God to the end that we submit fully to them. You understand? This full submission mentioned here is not to a man – the preacher – but to the Word the women have learned.
2] The New Testament Does Not Want a Woman to Teach (v.12)
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (v.12) The setting for this command is the whole congregation assembling itself together to be taught the Word of God, and the apostle is concerned with the place of women there, not the place of wives in their homes. If you take the prohibition superficially the rule seems to be quite comprehensive, as if the apostle were forbidding women in every single circumstance from teaching. Now we know that that is not the case. There is a sense, for example, in which all the people of God are responsible for teaching one another. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom” (Colossians 3:16). Women must give a reason for the hope that is in them to anyone who inquires. A woman of Samaria invited everyone to come and meet the Lord. We also know that women served with the apostles in the spread of the gospel (Romans 16:3,6,12). We remember that Priscilla is the first to be mentioned as speaking to a preacher named Apollos along with her husband Aquila. They had invited this man to their home in order to explain to him the way of God more adequately, and she seems to have taken the lead (Acts 18:26). So the Bible certainly does not forbid women in all circumstances from speaking and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.
The apostle is talking about the conduct of men and women when they have gathered together as a congregation to renew their commitment to God. It is in that context that the word of God does not permit a woman to teach. She does not have a call from God to be a preacher. She does not have the charisma, that is, the gift of grace, to be set aside as a herald of the King of Kings. A woman does not have the office of ministry. She does not have that special authority that distinguishes one believer from other Christians, and makes them preachers of the new covenant. Paul can say to Timothy, “Until I come, devote yourself the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift,” (I Tim. 4:13&14). He could never say that to a woman. The church’s officers are overseers and deacons. Both the elder and the deacon must be the husband of one wife (I Tim.3:2 & 3:12), and so women are disqualified.
The Bible does not forbid women exercising any kind of authority. Think of that virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31 and the authority which she displays in different spheres. She is a woman of authority and blessed by God. Women are told in this epistle to “manage their homes” (I Tim.5:14). The authority which is a no go area for women is strictly that which is found in the context of services of worship and in ruling the local congregation. A woman may not and can never teach authoritatively the whole gathered church. That function belongs to the essence of the ministerial office. For every woman without exception that is a total exclusion zone. God has made that perfectly clear in Holy Scripture. If she claims to be a preacher she is in fact a usurper, just as much as someone who masquerades as a doctor but has no medical training or qualifications.
3.] Five Slogans are Hurled at this Truth.
We all are aware that large sections of the church question all this. The Church of England has gone apace into ordaining women priests. Entering the new Millenium there will shortly be two thousand of them in the Anglican Church. At the last Assembly of the Baptist Union they spoke enthusiastically of their aim of having over twenty-five per cent of their ministers as women. Other denominations like the Church of Scotland, United Reformed Church and the Methodists have also had women preachers for years. They oppose the plain teaching of Scripture with cliche arguments, as if we have never thought of this subject: let me tread on these five snakes.
ONE. “That teaching is old-fashioned and reactionary.” Certainly it is old because it goes back to the men who were the eye-witnesses, friends and officially appointed servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Theological modernism has deeply infected the Western church and undermined the professing church’s trust in the authority of the Scriptures which those men wrote. If there is no standard to tell us how to live in the love of Jesus then affection for him is bound to grow lukewarm.
TWO. “Society has changed since the time the Bible was completed.” Of course, there have been extraordinary technological and social changes this century, and that makes some church-goers reserved about taking the positions our fathers adopted on many issues. Women are encouraged to go out to work, while men find it difficult to hold down a job. Our roles in church and family are being challenged. “The times they are a-changing” – true. But we are convinced that the Word of the Lord endures for ever. Though it may be difficult to work out every implication, the Scriptures were written as much with the 21st century in mind as the first century.
THREE. “All mankind are equal, and differences are not to be exploited but minimised.” Some forms of egalitarianism would play down any differences between men and women. But without the most nightmare Frankenstein surgery, it will always be women alone who will conceive and carry babies, and nurse them at the breast. Much as some men would long to know the privilege of another human life moving within them, that is to be an experience men will never know. God has refused every single man that gift. But men alone may beget children. God has made these profound differences between men and women with all their consequences for the slow years of children’s maturation during which they need the shelter of a family home. We simply cannot ‘forget’ about such things as masculinity and femininity in the name of equality and ‘concentrate on what it means to be persons,’ as we are being exhorted to do. We do not understand the pleas for such peculiar selective ‘forgetfulness.’ There are differences between the sexes which go beyond the biological part of our humanity. Sinful men have devalued one sex over their own, and that is a result of the fall, but that does not mean that we must deny all differences between men and women.
FOUR. “Women are oppressed in vast areas of the world, and the evangelical church is imposing more strictures on them by refusing to allow them to preach.” Certainly women are second class citizens in many places but the answer to that is not to ordain them to gospel ministry. One answer is to cleave to what is good and to oppose evil.
FIVE. “Your church is a lecture hall and preaching station.” Women, it is suggested, would feminize Sunday services. That objection is like a pouting child whining, “Church is for grown-ups.” I meet that grumble – that we might just as well this moment be sitting in a lecture hall – in a number of ways. One elementary step I take is that I won’t use an overhead projector while I am speaking. It would confirm that criticism. It would make preaching a ‘lecture’. I also meet that objection by praying for the power of the Lord Jesus to be present when we meet around the Word. I also meet it by saying this: the morning service and the evening service both last about an hour and a quarter. That means there are, every Sunday, twenty-one and a half hours without the church officially gathered together, and six more empty days in the week. For seven days every Christian is to exercise his or her gifts. During all that time the church is united to Christ as his body and functioning as the fellowship of the Spirit, the strong bearing the burdens of the weak, everyone giving a reason for the hope that is in them, Christians loving their neighbours as themselves and so on – the whole package of Christian living in which women are as 100% involved as the men. Choosing four or five men and women out of a congregation of a thousand during the brief hour of worship and giving them some public function to fulfil would do nothing at all to express the fact that the Christian life is full time and women as well as men are devoted to it.
4] Why Women are to Not Called to be Preachers. (v 13).
It was not because these particular women in Ephesus were doing something wrong. It was not because they were talking loudly in church. It was not because they were trying to teach without the necessary gifts. It was not because they were acting bossy. It was not because they were putting down their husbands in public. It is not that God has granted to men certain privileges simply because of their gender. It was for none of those reasons that women are not to become pastors and ministers, nor for anything like those reasons. Here is the first rationale for his views, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (v.13).
In other words, what the apostle does in explaining why women are not called to be preachers is to appeal to the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. Paul makes no reference to the relatively ignorant and uneducated condition of many women of his day. Paul makes no reference to the cultural offence it might have caused in the ancient world to have had women preachers. His case hinges almost entirely on the teaching of the opening chapters of the Old Testament. In other words what we have before us is the issue of the authority of the entire Bible. Here is the apostle Paul, the man the Lord Jesus himself chose. This is the man guided and helped by God the Son. As his Saviour said, “Haven’t you read…that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4), and so his servant Paul here speaks of Adam and of Eve. So what we find is that Paul turns to the authoritative Scriptures for the reason why women are not called to headship in the church.
The apostle turns in particular to the account of creation. Within the first 80 verses of the Bible is the foundation to almost everything a Christian believes. The whole of Scripture is written to address the events described in those first three chapters of Genesis. Their importance is shown by the amount of criticism directed towards them. Gary W. McHale points out, “Creation versus Evolution, the existence of Satan, the depravity of mankind are just a few of the issues addressed in these verses that our modern culture disagrees with” (p.5, “Adam and Eve Before the Fall,” Canadian Christian Publications, 1994).
When the Son of God is asked about divorce in Matthew 19 Christ appeals to these chapters, and he is God incarnate in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. So it is natural for the apostle Paul when dealing with the basis of role differences between men and women to appeal to this same part of the God-breathed Scriptures. He does that not only here but in I Corinthians 11, which again deals with propriety in worship. There the apostle also refers to the opening chapters of Genesis, I Corinthians 11:8, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man.” What role did Adam and Eve have when they came from the hands of their Creator? What was their relationship before the fall? How would they treat one another before sin messed everything up? Here is man without his ego and woman without her fears in a paradisaic state as an example to Christians today.
Genesis one tells us that God created all things, and that his highest creation, ‘man’, is unique. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen.1:26-27). So male and female have an equal standing in terms of created status. There is not a hair’s breadth of difference between the image of God in woman and the image of God in man. There are the two words employed, ‘image’ and ‘likeness.’ ‘Image’ emphasises man and woman’s close similarity to God, while ‘likeness’ stresses that this similarity is not exact. God and man are not indistinguishable. The divine image is rooted in all that it took to make Eve a woman and Adam a man, in such aspects of their personhood as their intellectual, emotional, and moral likeness to God. No other created being has this image. Woman and man share equally in the dignity of creation and in the fundamental privileges of the covenant of grace. Both could walk with the Lord in the garden, and know his fellowship and love. Eve knew God and understood what God required of her. She could love, worship and obey her Maker. When she was involved in those activities she was most fully a human being.
Genesis two gives the details of how God created mankind. The opening chapter has shown the uniqueness and equality of man and woman, and this second chapter balances the equality with an order, or a role relationship, between man and woman. So there is parity and also distinction between the created roles of man and woman. Let us consider the main differences:-
1] Man and woman were created at different times.
The apostle refers to that in our text – “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” In verse 7 of the second chapter God forms man and it is not until verse 21 that God creates woman. In the time between those two verses man was able to name the group of creatures which God the good shepherd brought to man. Many details of origins and the life of our first parents are hidden from us, but not this chronology of their creation. The Holy Spirit wanted us to know this, and it is not without meaning. So Paul builds his argument upon the order of creation, and, in his next phrase it will be on the order of the fall. Eve was created second and she fell first, therefore women are under some restriction. That is Paul’s argument, and it is only worth considering because it is true. The late Dr Paul Jewett thought the apostle was wrong here. How did he know? We note that the apostle in his letter to the Ephesians quotes this same section of Genesis 2 as the basis of husbands loving their wives. We believe that Paul was right there too. The verse in Genesis 2 that describes man being formed from the dust of the earth (v. 7) is referred to in fifteen other places in the Bible. The reference to God breathing life into man is referred to twelve times. All those references can’t be to Jewish myths. The second main difference:-
2. Man and woman were created from different materials.
Adam was created from the dust of the ground, while the woman was created from the rib of the man (everywhere else in the Bible the word translated ‘rib’ is translated ‘side’). Gary W. McHale says, “There was a difference in how the two genders came about. Man is created from the dust of the earth, which links him to the world, while the woman is created from his side, which links her to the man.” It is this difference that is the basis of the Apostle Paul’s argument in I Corinthians 11:12, “For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” The way in which man and woman were created determines the role differences they are to play.
The good Shepherd brings Eve to Adam and presents her to him, and he bursts into doxology: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23). The woman is part of him, equal in the created order, in the same divine image as himself. She is utterly different from all the beasts which he has seen and named. There might be some bonding between a show-jumper and his horse, a shepherd and his sheepdog, but these are the dimmest of echoes of the relationship of a husband and wife. The mysterious chemistry between man and the animals comes from the fact that both have been created by God from the dust of the ground. But man and woman are made in the image of God and fashioned in such a way that in marriage the two become one.
Gary W. McHale asks, “Is there any importance in the fact that woman came from his rib? I mean other than being flesh of his flesh. Why not from the feet which could mean one beneath him or one to walk all over, as many men have misunderstood it? Why not from the head meaning one who shared in the decision process, equal in mental abilities or one who shares in authority…? Since God does everything for a reason is there any reason that the woman was created from his side? As Thomas Aquinas states, ‘God did not make the wo man out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved” (“Adam and Eve Before the Fall” p.22). You cannot reconcile the Biblical account of the creation of Eve with theistic evolution. Eve was created by a sheer supernatural intervention of God.
3. Man and woman were created for different reasons.
Eve was created because it was not good for the man to be alone. But man was not absolutely alone because there were the animals, and more important there was God. Adam had a pure loving intimate relationship with the Lord untrammelled by sin. Yet this Lord still says that it is not good for man to be by himself. What value then God and Adam must place upon Eve.
The woman was created to be Adam’s helpmeet, or helpmate, or helper. The word is actually used as a term for God himself in a number of places. “O God our help in ages past,” we continue to sing because we have been the constant beneficiaries of his assistance. Yet God designates Eve to become Adam’s helper. A woman writer, Mary A. Kassian, opens up the subject so helpfully. She writes:
“The Hebrew word for ‘helper’ is a powerful one. It is usually used in a concrete sense to designate the assistant rather than the assistance given. Most other times when this particular word is used in the Old Testament, it refers to God being our helper. It usually refers to divine aid or assistance. To infer that the woman was to be a helper akin to God may be overstating the case. However, in the creation of female, we see that a doormat or servant-slave was certainly not what God had in mind. God intended to make a counterpart for a man, a vital helper for him, perhaps in much the same sense as God is a helper. More importantly, we can observe that the helper or man was made ‘suitable’ – corresponding to, or like him, neither inferior nor superior. The woman corresponds to the man in that she, like him, is made in God’s image” (“Woman, Creation, and the Fall,” Mary A. Kassian, Crossway Books, 1990, p.18).
So Eve was under Adam’s headship – she helped him. The Lord Jesus Christ put himself under the authority of Pontius Pilate. God had given Pilate that authority, as God gives it to the powers that are ordained by him – civil magistrates and rulers. We pray for all in authority. Elders in the church who rule well should receive double honour. Adam was not sinning by taking the help Eve delighted to give him. The Lord Jesus himself submitted to God when he lived in this world. There was no sin in God himself exercising authority over the man Christ Jesus. Both authority and submission are ordained by God.
Adam demonstrates the authority he has by naming all the animals that God has brought to him. Who named your baby? Who named the new house you have bought? Who named the book you wrote? Who named the puppy you purchased? Who named the cure you discovered for the disease? The answer is the people in authority in each case. You didn’t stop a stranger and asks him to suggest a name he likes for your new baby. Parents name their children. In Genesis 1 God names creation by calling them ‘day’, ‘night’, ‘heavens’, ‘earth’, ‘sky’. In Genesis 2 Adam names the animals, and then he names the woman. First in Genesis 2:23 naming her ‘woman’ which means she was ‘taken out of man’ and then in Genesis 3:20 Adam names her ‘Eve’ because she “would become the mother of all the living.”
God could have done it differently if he intended identification in the roles of men and women. God could have made the woman first, or God could have named the animals, or God could have asked them both to name the animals together, or to share together the work of the garden. Mary Kassian says, “If the woman and man were meant to have identical roles, God would have named the woman, just as he had named the man. In giving Adam the responsibility to name the woman, a hierarchical relationship between Adam and the woman is established from the very outset. This in no way belittles the woman or assigns to her a lesser role. It simply reflects the difference between the roles that God has assigned to each” (Mary Kassian, “Woman, Creation and the Fall”, Crossway, 1990, p.19).
The apostle Paul is appealing to the relationship between man and woman before the fall. He says, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” This is how God wanted mankind to function if sin had never occurred. Living in the light of this is the happiest, most suitable and convenient way for man and woman to relate to one another. Male headship did not come in because of the fall of man. It is not a by-product of the Fall but a consequence of how and when God created us. It is found in creation. And God said “Very good!” when he looked at the male authority he had created and the woman helpmeet he had provided, both made in the image of God and equal before him. This is the pattern Christ is always returning people to. When the Lord Jesus redeems a family, saves a wife and then her husband, he restores this Adam and Eve pre-fall relationship in their home – every single time. Everything that is bullyish and authoritarian and domineering in the man the Lord Jesus begins to remove, and everything that is rebellious and coquettish in the woman he also removes. But he sanctifies a man’s headship and the role of the woman as his helper. That is the divine programme for a blessed marriage.
C.S.Lewis says, “I am not married myself, but as far as I can see, even a woman who wants to be the head of her own house does not usually admire the same state of things when she finds it going on next door. There must be something unnatural about the rule of wives over husbands, because the wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule” (“Mere Christianity”).
When God grants to a couple children then the woman has the larger and more important role. Obeying God does not mean that the woman in every area of life is a second class person. Because the woman bears and nurtures children God has created her psychologically for the task. Because God has created man to replenish, subdue the earth and till the ground then he is created psychologically for that task. Woman’s task in ruling is smaller than man’s, and man’s task in reproduction is not as great as woman’s, but they are both united in this work, and in each of them one has a primary role and the other has a secondary role.
So both man and woman are equal before God, created in his image, but with different role distinctions. They don’t have the same rule, and they don’t have the same task in being fruitful and multiplying, but each complements the other. The Bible says, “Enjoy the difference.” Or as the French say, “Viva la difference!” A man will help and serve a woman differently from the way a woman helps and serves a man. We are meeting constant attacks on the difference between male and female. Genesis one and two declare that God created two distinct types of people, masculine and feminine, with different roles and abilities for the propagation and nourishment of the human race. When homosexual men use a surrogate mother to give birth to a child, when entertainers walk and sing so that you are not sure whether they are young men or young women, when women sports reporters demand to enter men’s changing rooms after the match, then sexual distinctions are being destroyed.
We believe that there is a complementary differentiation designed by God for our joy and peace. We are not traditionalists because we are willing to allow the Scriptures to change any traditions we have received from our fathers. We are not hierarchicalists because we believe man and woman are equal in redemptive privilege and in mutual interdependence. We believe that what is at stake in the attempt to make women full-time preachers is part of a much bigger onslaught on the nature of God himself, and the very fabric of the life of his creatures in his creation. God wills the holiness of his people and that this message of the structure of man woman relationship is part of the good news we have to bring to the world. The Bible makes it clear that men should take primary responsibility for leadership in the home and that, in the church, the primary teaching and governing leadership should be given by spiritual gifted men. That is an expression of the mercy and wisdom of God in making it so plain what men and women are, and what their different callings are to be. God has been very specific as to what is good for us all.
The issue of the church saying no to women’s leadership in the church is essential for the very existence of Christianity. What we are meeting today is another religion calling itself Christianity. One of the books I was reading this past week was J.David Pawson’s “Leadership is Male” (Highland Books, 1988). The Foreword to it is written by Elisabeth Elliot, and it is generally a sensible book. David Pawson quotes a highly critical review of an earlier edition of the book by the bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway, in the “Church Times” in which he says, “In searching the Scriptures Mr Pawson can find only patriarchy or male leadership as the model for relationship between the sexes, and he is absolutely right. That’s what the Bible says, along with a lot of other stuff we have long since discarded. Mr Pawson’s difficulty is tragic. He is a good and kindly man and a fine Christian leader, but he is absolutely hung up on a fundamentalist method of scriptural interpretation. It makes him consistent, or as consistent as Scripture; but he believes in doing what he thinks the Bible tells him to do…” (p.100). David Pawson took all that as a back-handed compliment, apart from the perjorative ‘fundamentalist.’
Then this past week in the Times (Wednesday 3 November) there was a large headline, “Bishop Wants Church to Pray to God the Mother.” Richard Harries of Oxford, is trying again to have a written prayer accepted in the Church of England new service book for the Lord’s Supper which addresses God as the Mother who gathers her children together. The Methodists already have written prayers which speak of God the Mother, and now there are bishops who want this to be officially part of the Church of England’s liturgy. The rejection of the biblical revelation of the roles of man and woman is ultimately followed by a rejection of the biblical revelation of God as the exclusive heavenly Father of his people.
7th November 1999 GEOFF THOMAS