Why the Bible says no to female Pastors/Elders

 Recently, I listened to most of an 8 part seminar given by Jon Zenz at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid Oklahoma addressing the issue of the Patriarchal system of male only authority within the church.  For the  most part I can readily say that Bro. Zenz did an outstanding job of working his way through the scripture, and exegeting the text in a very eye-opening way.  I learned from him, and I appreciate his work.

(I’m not savvy enough to provide a link, but you can listen to the seminars at Emmanuel Baptist in Enid Oklahoma’s website)

Without any question, Bro. Zenz is clearly a humble, honest, servant of the Lord who seeks to give clear exposition of the scriptures.  While I will ultimately come to the place of  separatory (I made that word up) disagreement doctrinally, I will say that there is no reason whatsoever to impugn his character, or accuse him of having a slanted agenda.

However, after listening to the seminar, and reading other articles on the issue that come to the same conclusion that he did, I want to give an honest response from the other side of the issue.  In fact, I have to say that after hearing all of his evidence for the acceptance of women being teachers/preachers over men in the church, I am even more convinced that 1st Timothy 2:12 means what it says, and says what it means; and I do so based on textual, exegetical reasons.

While there are many things right in Dr. Zenz evidence, I need to address some “straws” and “flaws” in the middle of his arguments.  There are several things that I noticed worth mentioning.  There were many assumptions, omissions, and a few admissions that caught my eye.

First of all, he seemed to be either arguing against a straw man, or against a movement that I know nothing about.  He seemed to be coming against those who treat women as abject slaves within the church.  He successfully eliminates “gender specific” spiritual gifts; “gender specific” abilities, and well documents female prominence within the New Testament churches.  He does a magnificent job upholding, and undergirding the equal role of women within the assembly, in prayer, praise, and service.  Dr. Zenz did an outstanding job explaining and expounding the gifts, abilities, and workings of women in the early New Testament life.  They are equal to men in every way, and no one should use the Bible to think any different.

However, let me say this.  I know of no one who believes in a male only pastorate, that also believes women have no function whatsoever in ministry.  I know of no one who believes that Spiritual Gifts are “gender specific”.  I know of no one who believes that women are not categorically equal in Christ, and in the church.  I know of no one who believes that women must keep their mouths shut tight while on church property or in public assembly.  Of all the preachers,  pastors, and believers that I know, who hold the male only pastorate doctrine, not one of them believe that women are inferior to men. 

I don’t know who he is trying to convince that women are equal to men, but if they are out there, his general exegesis should do it. Now if he is dealing with people outside of the Baptist ranks, there may be some of that in groups that he is aware of, but that kind of behavior and attitude is not found anywhere in any Baptist that I am associated with.

Second, I was pleasantly surprised with his admission of Ephesians 5:21-23.  For as long as I have been in the ministry, every preacher that I know that has been worth his weight in salt, has said essentially the very same thing that Dr. Zenz did.  That the “submission of the wife” of verse 22 is predicated on the “mutual submission” of verse 21.  Within “mutual submission, the wife is to be submissive.” Which is the only way that I’ve ever heard it taught, and the way that Dr. Zenz admitted that the scripture concluded. 

No teaching on the “submission of women” can rightly be taught without Ephesians 5:21, and the heavy instructions laid out to the husband.

Just a note – Here is the fundamental omission that leads to deception.  One of Jon’s books is entitledNo Will of My Own – How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity and Personhood.”  The problem is that it is not the “Doctrine” of male headship that smothers female dignity and personhood, it is the ABUSE of that doctrine.  Because some men abuse a teaching, does not mean that the teaching is false, malevolent, or bad.

Because men malevolently leave out Ephesians 5:21 and 5:25, and 28-30, doesn’t mean that there is a problem with the “doctrine” it means there is a problem with depraved men who like what the scripture says of the woman, and doesn’t like what it says of the man.  The right teaching of the “submission” of the woman begins with the husbands complete submission to Christ as servant, and to her as loving mate.  If there is no doctrine of a husbands submission to his role, then there is no fulfillment of his being the “head of the wife.”   Dr. Zens did a great job outlining that when a husband obeys his role, that women, should have no problem subjecting themselves to him.  When a woman has no will of her own, and the dignity of her personhood is smothered, it is not because of this doctrine, it is because of evil men.

Thirdly, his handling of 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 is worthy of serious consideration.  I have not walked down this road yet, but it is one that I intend to investigate. He asserts that verse 34 and 35 are quotes from the Talmud that Paul is throwing back at these Corinthian believers calling into question their behavior. The idea that this is a quote from the Talmud followed by a “WHAT?” sounds sensible at first.  I cannot just embrace it and say that’s the way that it is, but I cannot merely dismiss it either. 

Finally, where we have to part ways is with 1st Timothy 2:12.  Not because I am predisposed to it, but because of the exegetical evidence.

Dr. Zens brings into the equation the cult of Artemis, and the domination of women.  It is his assertion, if I understood him correctly that these female converts were coming into the church and still asserting themselves too much, were “pushy” to use his word, and became a serious disruption because of their left over ideas of superiority.  He asserts that most likely Paul had one particular woman in mind, or group of women, and therefore was instructing Timothy that this is how to handle that situation.  Therefore this instruction was for a particular cultural situation, and not a Biblical instruction for all churches for all time.  At least that’s my understanding of his explanation of that text.

I have several reasons to not follow that route. I’ll start with the least reason first.

1.) It is entirely an assumption.  There is nothing in the text whatsoever that Paul had a particular person or group of people in mind; that is an attempt to walk from the background into the Bible without a verifiable bridge to cross. 

2.) Paul had no problem naming names.  All throughout his writings he took numbers and named names.  “Alexander the coppersmith”; “Euodius and Syntyche” (women by the way) “Jannes and Jambres”, “Demas having loved this present world.”

3.) For Paul to use their “gender” as the means by which to remedy the situation would be perhaps one of the shallowest “cop-outs” in all of history.  That is like saying, “since Bill is a problem on the Building Committee, we rule out men from serving on this committee.”  “Since Sister Hatchet, is too bossy on the Finance Committee, no woman shall ever serve on our finance committee. ”  That is not really a cohesive way to deal with a problem with anyone.  No one would address a problem with one person or group by going through their gender to do it. Paul was much wiser and smarter than that.

4.) But finally the single most convincing piece of evidence.  1 Timothy 2:13-14.

Dr. Zens explanation of 1st Timothy 2, is really an attempt to explain WHY, Paul said what he did.  In fact that is the entire argument from everyone who disagrees with male only pastors, is there is another reason that Paul said that, that we do not know about.  No one denies that he said it, they can’t; it’s dark black ink on bright white paper.  Like Dr. Zens here they attempt to explain WHY he wrote it.

There is no real need to guess, explain, or assume, why he wrote it because Paul explained clearly WHY he wrote verse 12.  He wrote verse 12 “BECAUSE Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”  That is the full text.  The word and structure here of “FOR” means to “Properly assign a Reason”  Taken in the plainest sense, Paul said, “I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in “tranquility” BECAUSE, Adam was first formed and then Eve, AND Adam was not deceived but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

We do not have to wonder why he wrote it, because he said so.  He did not write it because of pushy women from the Cult of Artemis, he did not write it because of a cultural issue or problem, he wrote it because “Adam was first formed and then Eve, And Adam was not deceived  . . . you get the idea.

Now let me say this.  I don’t have time or space here to address all of this issue, but one of the “assumptions” that Dr. Zens and those who disagree with us make, that I do not and will not assume.  They continually address this isse of male only pastorate as an “equality/inequality” issue. – I deny that and defy that.  Men and women are categorically equal, and fundamentally different.  While men and women are equal in the church, their roles are different.

I am 5’6″.  I have no business playing “Center” on the basketball court.  I’m short, horizontally proficient and almost 39, there is no role for me in the Major Leagues anymore.  Different does NOT mean unequal, and regardless of how many times someone says it, it doesn’t make it true. Different and Equal, Equal and Different this is men and women, and the Bible makes that very plain. 

When it comes to women in the church, they are every bit as active, and equal in the Lord’s work as any man.  The scriptures however simply do not let them Teach/Preach or usurp Authority over men within the assembly, and the scriptures tell us why that is the case.  The Apostle Paul under the leadership of the Holy Spirit penned the reason when he pointed to the fall of man, and said “that’s why!”  To address it in any other way, in any other light, different from the spelled out reason of God is not a change worth making.

2 comments on “Why the Bible says no to female Pastors/Elders

  1. Rev. P. L. Pearl-Kirkby says:

    Well said! This post has addressed nearly every issue that has come across my table.

    I EARNED my ordination from a church which supports women pastors, but I have never sought pastorship. I thought for years that it was due to my upbringing…the conditioning that those of my age learned at their mothers’ knees. But no matter how many times someone has tried to tell me otherwise, I just couldn’t seem to agree with women pastors…because I read my Bible daily (meaning almost ALL day!).

    There are so many times in the Scriptures that women are lauded for their participation in all things spiritual, but even so, I have yet to understand that it was ever okay for them to usurp the authority that has been traditionally reserved for men.

    I have been a member of a church whose congregation ‘voted in’ a female pastor. She was a wonderful woman and a gifted orator…and the children loved her dearly as well. But when it came to counselling, the members (including myself) just didn’t seek her help as they had our former pastor-a gentleman who had pastored the church for decades. There’s just something about being “father of the flock” that a woman simply wasn’t able to fulfill. Eventually she just wasn’t there anymore.

    I am humbly ‘proud’ of my church seeing fit to ordain me. I worked very hard for the title “Reverend”. I might even agree to an interim arrangement at some church which was in the process of replacing an outgoing pastor…but I would only do so as a Minister, or “Guest Speaker” or whatever they would choose to refer to me. Only not “The Pastor”.

    I am the founder and leader of a very small, local ministry of service. I have been known to marry couples who do not have a church home, and counsel those same types of people. Where there are “unchurched” souls, I will, if I am able, offer them the love of Christ and do my best to lead them to the saving knowledge of Christ Our Savior. I have been known to find myself “preaching Christ” to small groups of people during a reunion or other get-together. But always, at the end, I urge folks to find a Bible believing church to attend.

    Then I leave further, specific leadership to those whom I perceive have been given that final authority.

    I will not pastor a church, not because I am incapable…but because for the past 50 years I have not seen anywhere in the Bible…OT or NT…that this is one of the jobs which God assigned woman.

    I have to admit, though, that I’ve often wondered if I’d make a GOOD pastor!

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful article, though. I’m sure I will quote from it often during my next 50 years of ministry.

    God Bless
    Rev. P.L. Pearl-Kirkby

  2. Thank you for your kind comments, and your sweet spirit. I do pray that you and the Lord have a sweet walk together during those next 50 years and beyond.
    Bro. Jeff Haney

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