Two Views of Women In Ministry
A Research Paper in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for
THEO 530 (Summer 2012)
Systematic Theology II
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
Rick Mangrum (ID# 21757355)
June 17, 2012
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This will be a brief critique of Two Views of Women in Ministry, compiled by Stanley N. Gundry from the work of several experts on the subject. This book is part of The Counterpoints series published by Zondervan Publishing, highlighting opposing viewpoints of critical theological issues. Gundry, an accomplished writer and past theology professor, works at Zondervan as editor-in-chief of their book group. This is a very important subject. The role of women in the ministry is a topic with little agreement in today’s church, “not yet settled” in the minds of many. It is to many a topic of “widespread uncertainty and confusion.”It is an important topic considering that more than half of our current population is female. Many noted scholars, including D.L. Moody have identified it as one of the most important topics of the modern church. It is also an important topic because Jesus made it so. Women were important in the ministry of Jesus from the very beginning. The detail in which scripture gives the account of Mary’s journey to Jesus’ birth was an important part of the story of his beginning. In his ministry, Jesus included women from the very beginning, including them in his teaching, in his entourage, in many of the major events of his life and at his death and resurrection. A detailed examination of the topic through this book by Gundry will show that women have a clear and equal place in God’s ministry, contrary to the traditional doctrine of women in the church.
The book is in four sections, each dealing with one of the two opposing views of women in the ministry and three responses to each view. The two opposing views, egalitarian and complementarian, are presented as different views of the same subject each with biblical and doctrinal support. Each is presented in the format of a friendly debate. In his opening introduction, Gundry is clear that he believes there is room for both views in the church, “within the bounds of orthodoxy and a commitment to inerrancy.” Healthy debate of critical issues is good for the church and the debater. While the debate of this issue may seem “shifting” and at times “futile” it is very worthwhile.
The egalitarian and complementarian views are both presented twice with detailed arguments by established scholars. Then each is rebutted by three equally qualified writers. This critique will deal with the two main arguments for each position then overall rebuttal notes on each with a final conclusion.
THE EGALITARIAN VIEW
Beginning with writer Linda Belleville, Gundry gives the first of two debates for this position, the idea that women should have equal status in all things pertaining to ministry. Belleville, an author of books on different theological subjects is a professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. One of her focuses theologically has been the role of women in church leadership. She details a solid biblical foundation for her position starting with creation in Genesis through the ministry of Jesus and his apostles in the New Testament. Belleville details the role of specific women in leadership positions in both Old and New Testaments. She then deals with specific leadership roles in the church and how women fit into each biblically. She also deals convincingly with biblical passages often used to limit the role of women in the church, giving both historical and theological perspectives.
Beginning in Genesis, Belleville outlines her view that the creation story supports the idea of the equal status of men and women in God’s kingdom. From her perspective the creation story in Genesis 1-2 shows the “human completeness that occurs after the creation of woman.” Woman was not created to serve man but to complete him. She continues through the rest of Genesis into the New Testament illustrating that “male rule finds no explicit place in the Bible’s theology at all.” From Matthew and Mark she references that Jesus focused on the oneness of men and women, not their differences. This was illustrated back in the Garden of Eden, as Adam sinned immediately after Eve, one in their activities.
Belleville’s views of the equality of women and men are not just based on the creation story. She weaves a convincing story around spiritual gifts, clearly shown as equal to men and women in biblical times. The role of prophet, clearly one of the most important in Old Testament times, but given to women as well as to men. The stories of five women Old Testament prophets are illustrated. The gift of prophecy was also granted to women in New Testament times in the story of Anna in Luke. Belleville finishes her argument with a detailed analysis of women leaders in both Old and New Testaments. She goes as far as to say that potentially, women were more equal in biblical times than today, illustrating that some women in that day had “roles many would deny to them today.”
Belleville’s argument is convincing on many levels. Craig Keener, in the second presentation of the egalitarian view, is also persuasive. Keener, writer of over thirty books on different theological subjects serves as professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He comes at the issue from a different direction than Belleville. His arguments in support of equal status for women in ministry are also soundly biblically based but come to a different conclusion. He finds that the Bible not only permits but encourages women in all phases of ministry. Only under “exceptional circumstances” are women excluded. Keener details Old Testament support and record of women as prophets, like Belleville, but also as judges. In the New Testament he details the roles of women as apostles and laborers in the word, much like the laypeople today supporting the local church. From Paul’s writings, Keener points out that the language Paul used to describe his fellow male workers in ministry is also used to describe women. His conclusion is that the interpretations of Paul’s work over time have traditionally assumed male gender for these workers in God’s kingdom. Keener also addresses why there have traditionally been more men than women in ministry, today and in biblical times. His conclusions are that this is again more traditional than biblical. In fact, many argue that since Jesus had no women as disciples, he was giving the example for biblical leadership in the male gender. Keener points out that Jesus also excluded Gentiles, slaves and Judeans from the disciples as well. Certainly his gospel message was for them. This type of exception logic should not be applied to these biblical examples.
The most convincing part of Keener’s support of equal status is his clear detail on many of the current biblical passages used to eliminate women from leadership in ministry. This short critique will not allow a full description of these. The conclusion of Keener is that in biblical examples where women are clearly excluded were those of extraordinary circumstance. In 1 Timothy for example where women were excluded from teaching, there were many false teachers in that community, Ephesus. False teachers of that day normally sought to exploit female members of a community first. Paul’s direction to exclude women from teaching is here used as a means of protection for the women there not as a rule for every circumstance to exclude them from any ministry.
Overall the arguments of Keener and Belleville before him are well grounded and convincing. For every biblical passage opposing women in ministry there is one supporting them. And as Keener pointed, most biblical passages that seem to exclude women from ministry were guidance for an unusual circumstance, not the norm of ministry.
THE COMPLEMENTARIAN VIEW
In parallel to the two full arguments for the equality of women in ministry Gundry presents two that support the traditional, complementarian view that women are meant to compliment, or help men in ministry, but never to lead. The complementarian view is first represented by Craig L. Blomberg, professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary. His is also a prolific writer with several books on the reliability and inerrancy of the Bible. His work is a compelling mix of biblical and historical perspective, beginning in Genesis, through the Old Testament, including the Intertestamental period, through the New Testament ministry of Jesus with detailed emphasis on the writings of Paul. Blomberg’s writing style is easy to read and understand, even for this amateur theology student. His case for complementing, but not quite equal positions in ministry is supported by much discussion of history and the relationships between men and women, how they are the same and how they are different. His detail is down to women’s hair styles! His ultimate conclusion is that women may hold any office or function in ministry other than the “highest office.” Other writers have similarly noted that there are church fathers biblical illustrated, “but no comparable group of church mothers.”
Blomberg’s careful exegenesis of Paul’s writing is the most convincing part of his argument. He digs deep into passages in Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 1 Timothy and 1 Peter to show that Paul’s choice of words gives his true meaning. In Galatians 3:28 for example Paul writes that “you are all one in Christ Jesus” a text used by egalitarians to show that Paul meant women and men, as well as people of all races should serve equally in the ministry. Bloomberg makes that case that the context of the passage does not say that at all. Paul is referencing salvation, not works or offices in the church. This is shown by the passages immediately prior to this passage and many that follow. Paul was being specific about salvation, not about ministry.
His two main conclusions are that male leadership is a “timeless, God-ordained” direction for the church and that God’s highest offices are limited to males. Bloomberg is less specific about the definitions of those highest offices. His scholarly presentation is also tempered by his comment that “I could be wrong.” He clearly makes the case that the details of the leadership of ministry are not as important as the ministries themselves. His openness to other viewpoints is refreshing and welcomed.
The second writer embracing the complementarian perspective starts his presentation with much the same tone. This is an important topic, but certainly “not to say that it is the most important controversy” facing believers today. Thomas Schreiner serves as a professor of New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His view of women as complementing the roles of men while never leading them was very specific in its analysis of the Genesis story. Schreiner outlined the specific chronology of events that pertained to both Adam and Eve, illustrating his point of view that in every case, God showed favor of some kind to the male of the pair. It started with male created first, then the male given the first commandment from God, the male given a helper, finally leading to God’s calling out the male of the pair first when the original sin had been committed. It is a convincing point of view. Schreiner also worked his way through now familiar passages in the New Testament on this topic, taking the complementarian point of view of those such as the prohibition of women in 1 Timothy to teaching. His arguments are sound on these passages. It was his point of view of Genesis that this writer found the most persuasive.
This is a fascinating and completely contemporary topic. It is fascinating in that for all of the life of this student only one side of this issue has ever been presented. Frankly as a life-long Southern Baptist, a message or lecture on even the possibility that women should serve equally in the church has never been available. It is a completely contemporary topic as many mainstream Protestant denominations are now actively placing women in positions of leadership. What the Bible says should be the final determination.
The complementarian view is compelling. Blomberg lays out a “consistent pattern” of support for the idea that women are equal in the sight of God in terms of salvation and overall status, but not for the highest positions of leadership. Certainly his position is the mainstream view of most Christian believers today.
Schreiner is also compelling. His logical presentation of the first acts of God for man before women is great exegenesis of scripture. There is a clear pattern. Certainly there is nothing in scripture that is not there for a reason, implicit or covert.
It is what the Bible does not say that leads this student to support the other side of the debate. While scripture clearly implies male leadership in many passages such at 1 Timothy 3, it does not prohibit their leadership. The Bible is very clear where it desires to be. Thou shalt not kill is pretty clear. Thou shalt not lead ministry unless you are a man is not a biblical reference I can find. In none of the support of the complementarian view in this book was a clear biblical prohibition of women in leadership. There are certainly clear implications. Those implications lead the student to consider the audience for the original texts. Most were certainly men. The text may have been written or translated with the audience in mind.
Research on the subject outside of Gundry has also shown clear implications that Jesus was not bound by the traditions of his day regarding women. By example, he included them in just about everything he did with the exception of his closest twelve disciples. In that day “it was unheard of for a Jewish rabbi to have or want female followers,” yet Jesus did exactly that.
While I am persuaded by the egalitarian point of view it is frankly not the arguments that give me the final nudge toward conclusion. Belleville and Keener are persuasive, especially with the argument that the prohibition of women teaching or perhaps in leadership was based on the context of the time and the audience of the original text. This amateur student of theology is slowly learning to give great respect to those factors when in doubt about clear meaning.
To be completely fair, just as the complementarian point of view fails to clearly show a prohibition of women in ministry from a biblical source, the egalitarian supports also fail to show a clear endorsement of the position. Such are the issues that have led me to my seminary journey.
In the end this student’s view point has begun to evolve. The debate has led to further research on the subject. This is certainly a subject worthy of time and attention.
Denver Theological Seminary Website, http://www.denverseminary.edu/about-us/president- faculty-staff-board/our-faculty/dr-craig-l-blomberg/.
Elwell, Walter, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Press, 2001.
Gruden, Wayne, Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism, Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Publishing, 2006.
Gundy, Stanley J., James R. Beck, Two Views on Women in Ministry, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.
Harper Collins Publishing Website, http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/90000970/Stanley_N_Gundry/index.aspx.
Intervarsity Press Publishing Website, http://www.ivpress.com/cgi- ivpress/author.pl/author_id=393.
Morris, Leon, New Testament Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986.
Pierce, Ronald W., Discovering Equality, Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004.
Sens, Jon and Wade Burleson, What’s With Paul and Women, Omaha, NE: Ekklesia Press, 2010.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Website, http://www.sbts.edu/theology/faculty/thomas-schreiner/.
United States Census Website, http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html
 Stanley N. Gundry, Two Views of Women in Ministry, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), back cover.
 Harper Collins Website, (accessed 6/10/2012).
 Gundry, p15.
 Wayne Gruden, Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism, (Colorado Springs, CO: Mulnomah Publishing, 2006), p304.
 US Census Website, (accessed 6/13/2012).
 Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Grands Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Press, 2001), p1291
 Leon Morris, New Testament Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986), p203-204
 Gundry, p15.
 Gundry, p344.
 Intervarsity Press Website, (accessed 6/11/2012).
 Gundry, p30.
 Ibid, p43.
 Ibid, p103.
 Ibid, p207.
 Ibid, p223.
 Ibid, p232.
 Denver Seminary Website, (accessed 6/12/2012).
 Gundry, p166.
 Ibid, p181.
 Ronald W. Pierce, Discovering Equality, (Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2004), p26.
 Ibid, p153.
 Ibid, p181.
 Ibid, p183.
 Ibid, p265.
 SBTS Website, (accessed 6/12/2012).
 Gundry, p180
 Jon Sens and Wade Burleson, What’s with Paul and Women?, (Omaha, NE: Ekklesia Press, 2010), p28.