Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Blogtext: Authority and women in the church.

It is not very often that there is any feedback on the things I write. But my text about the silence of women in the church raised  feedback with some questions that I do well to address. A medical student somewhere in the cyber world has read and commented and made some critical remarks.

I thank him for the feedback and will try to reply here.


First he makes the observation that " my own views on things have crept into the blogtext." Well I venture to say that he himself has never said one sentence  that did not have the same problem, and as far as I can see he voiced only his own opinion in his critique of my text. Seems a blunt weapon.

The major critique pertains to my 'threefold presupposition". I am not clear on which those three presuppositions are, but I can certainly say that I know what my presuppositions are for any interpretation of the word of God.


1 The first one is that which the NT repeatedly establishes: All things written beforehand are written for our times and for our wisdom to conduct ourselves wise at the end of the ages.

2 The second presupposition is that scripture explains scripture, making it necessary  to place everything in context with itself where it is written and compare it with what has been written in the rest of the Word of God on the same topic. That is how scripture teaches about scripture. Case in point: the temptation of Jesus in Matt 4 and Luke 4.  One of the most heinous sins perpetrated right through church history is the refusal to do just that.

3 The third presupposition is that the work of the Holy Spirit takes precedence over the direct instructions to individuals is specific situations  in local circumstances. A case in point: To Corinth Paul writes that he had only one message: Christ and him crucified and not human wisdom or mere intellectual reasoning. The back drop is that in Corinth there was a certain wisdom culture in place with which the church had to come to terms. To use that statement aimed at Corinth specifically as an excuse for only preaching the crucified Christ would be folly especially since the same Paul in his other letters writes about an awful lot of other things.

Those who maintain that the clear command that Paul gives about women being silent in the church always and unconditionally, must therefore do more than quote the Ephesian passage, they must explain a lot of other statements also made by Paul. I will list a few here in the form of questions.

1 Is it not clear that the arrival of the New Covenant would mean an equal blessing to men and women, an equal outpouring of the Spirit on young and old, male and female alike? What else does Joel 2:28 mean? "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men dream dreams and your young men shall see visions. Even on male and female servants in those days will I pour out my Spirit."

2 Is there any indication anywhere in the bible that salvation is different for men than for women? Is there not even in Paul's writing a totally covering statement made as to the equality in grace irrespective of sex? "But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (chaperon?) for in Christ Jesus you are all the sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is not male and female, but ye are all one in Christ Jesus."  Gal 3:25-28  Who will tell me that Paul here is only speaking to MALE men about being in Christ, baptized into Christ and therefore no longer to be recognized by their former status "but by being one Spirit with Christ".


3 Is regeneration different for men and for women? "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is  a new creature: old things are passed away: behold all things have become new. And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Cor 5:17-18
Will my critic then stand up and say that this  is not true for women? They cannot have the ministry of reconciliation because they are women? 


4 Is God a respecter of persons so that God only calls male men to be his (verbal) witnesses? "These all continually prayed and interceded together with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.... and when the day of Pentecost was fully come they were all with one accord in one place .. and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance." Acts 1:14- 2:4


They spoke, men and women, of the mighty deeds of God without respect to their sexual gender. And that is on the Birthday of the entire Church of Christ.

Is that not clear? The women are there as part of the universal break through of the church fulfilling the prophecy of Joel and doing exactly what God promised would happen, women would prophesy just as well as men.

5 Is female prophecy limited to a ministry to women only and outside the church? Anna the mother of John the Baptist is a prophetess daily in ministry in the temple. The four daughters of Philip, the ex deacon from Jerusalem are identified as having a prophetic ministry. Where is prophecy carried out? In the midst of the congregation where the gifts are given by God in response to the needs of the church, not according to gender but according to the sovereign decision of the Spirit. In 1 Cor 14 the matter comes to a head. "Desire the gifts" he says to all believers. " For the edification and up-building of all." The Spirit decides to give His gifts to men only? Oh My...


And that is where he puts in this contested limitation of women who are not allowed to speak in church but to be in submission " as the law " says. Elsewhere he refers to Sarah's submission to Abraham, and here he concludes that women should keep such business out of the church which belongs to the domestic domain, "if they have anything to ask, they should consult their husbands at home." At least then they are a) married  b) have husbands that they are submitted to and consequently are in a christian marriage where the husband is the spiritual head under Christ. c) the things not suited in church are not be discussed there.

An old testament illustration in point: Abigail and Nabal. Remember that story? If she had bent down under the authority of her fool of a man as my critic seems to indicate, she would have had a different fate and so would David. ( All things were written for our instruction.) I Sam 25

But what about the common dilemma: a non spiritually mature man with a spiritually mature wife? Will we tell that woman not to speak up? Is not the issue of taking authority a matter of deliberation depending on circumstances? Should women be silent just because the men are there, or are there requirements made on the men? For sure there are.

I claim: The authority of any man is not vested in him but in his Lord and manifested in the man's submission to Christ. If he is not obviously submitted to the authority of Christ he cannot demand to be considered an authority by anyone. The meaning of Eph 5:21-33 is to be taken as a whole text, not snipped in pieces to suit whatever male power fancy there may be. 

Lastly: "I cannot accept women to be in authority over men, or to teach men." 2 Tim 2:12  The irony is that unless women had had at least some authority over men, Timothy would not have been a believer at all. Since it was his mother  Eunice and grandmother Louis who had brought him up in the all too common absence of a father.  It follows by Paul's further teaching that all women are to teach all their children and one another! The older to teach the younger: "Teach sound doctrine the aged men to be sober, serious. moderate in consumption, sound of faith, charitable and patient. Aged women in the similar manner in a behaviour that is fitting holiness, not talebearers or tattlers, nor lushes, but teachers of good things to the younger women. That these should  be sober, and love their husbands and their children. Tit 2:1-4


To usurp authority then is the key. Women are not allowed to do that. But let me ask you, are men allowed to usurp authority? Is any one in fact allowed to do so on the strength of their gender alone? Is not the entire gospel designed in opposition to anyone lording it over anyone else? Is it not true that the only way to become the greatest is by being the most humble servant? Is it not true that every attempt to claim authority for one self is strictly forbidden and frowned upon in the kingdom of God?


How often does Paul challenge people's authority? How often does he speak of false teachers and pretenders to apostleship? How often does he ask for the credentials of those who preach another gospel? The authority of Jesus, whence was it? It was from above. Not vested in Him but given by Him who had sent him. He spoke with authority because he never spoke anything but what he had heard from the Father. Who will tell the world that no woman can do that?

If any man or woman or even a donkey speaks the word of the Higher authority it is not usurping any authority at all. But if anyone claims authority on the basis of their gender, male or female, then they are to be admonished and demoted from their inflated ego as soon as  possible.

The churches suffer from lack of leadership. Many churches have an absolute majority of women in the church. Where are the men? Some of them sit and spend their time on defending men's natural sovereignty while being in no responsible leadership at all.

It never is about the gender of the servant, but of the true comitment to the Master who  calls, equips, establishes and protects his servants.  


Well Paul has one very important point to make. Those who do not submit to Christ but usurp authority  and aspire to lead without being first led will wreak havoc in the church, be they male or female, chauvinist or feminist. What do Mary Baker Eddy, The  Kate and Margret Fox, Madame Blavatsky, Ellen G White have in common? Errant women under no authority creating offshoots of Christianity that have deviation from the truth in various degrees. So yes: women are easily deceived.

But ere you fly at my throat: Charles Taze Russel started the Watchtower Movement of Jehovah's witnesses, infamous Joseph Smith started the Mormon church on the basis of more falsity than one can even conceive. John Thomas started the Christadelphians, Emmanuel Swedenborg his own oddity and so on.

Men or women, who usurp authority that is not theirs to begin with are always sooner or later lost cases. I insist that this must not be the only way. I firmly believe that God calls whom he will and when that calling is in a man or a woman it will be seen in their devotion and unselfish service to Christ and his church.

I fear that the issue of authority being so touchy is a reflection of the way the Church has lost its bearings. "You know how the princes of the heathen exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority over them- But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be chief among you let him be your servant. Even as the son of man came not to be ministered to but to minister, serve and give his life a ransom for many." Matt 20:25f.

People who aspire to become ministers on the basis of seeing it as a position of authority and power have fundamentally missed the point of christian and  spiritual leadership. Furthermore, no-one appoints themselves to a ministry. No one is a solo enterprise in biblical church leadership.The one pastor/priest/bishop pattern of virtually all churches is not the work of the Spirit. Ministering in the church of Christ is not a career but a calling.

It would to me seem as close to blasphemy as possible to claim that God  must only call men to lead and to teach. 
That is not the God of the true church, the assembly of the Lord.

 So whom does God call? Those who are born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, skilled in rightly dividing the Word of Truth, approving themselves as stewards of the sound doctrines.They live in submission to the Lord and are acknowledged by the church as God's gift to it. They do not impose themselves on the church, they qualify for ministry by service.

But we have changed all that. We produce religious broilers in seminaries and universities who are then put on the market for pastorship/priesthood. They come to churches with their own agenda and look for the available career leading to bigger and richer churches.. Do they listen to the Chief Shepherd? Are they familiar with the leading of sheep by first being sheep to the Shepherd? Will they give their lives for their sheep or are they hired hands with their hire as a first concern?

How many church leaders are engaged in doing what Paul did with Timothy? "What you have received from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to other's who in turn can instruct the next generation." Any leader worth his or her salt trains up their sucessor, and makes themselves superflous by discipling others. It is a far cry from anyone usurping authority. All such servants answer to their Lord. 


Fruit is what it is about, not gender.


Teddy Donobauer, Doncaster Feb 6 2018


1 comment:

  1. Some clips on the topic:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDqs66WPPdQ

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SnRcy_b5BQ

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpKPOlT1hFI

    ReplyDelete

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