Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: Thinking and Living Biblically in a Gender-nuteral Society – 19 Objections to Complementarianism

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on August 20, 2003

1 Timothy 2:8-15

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Thinking and Living Biblically in a
Gender-neutral Society
Biblical Manhood and Womanhood series
First Presbyterian Church
Jackson, MS
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan

19 Objections
to Complementarianism

1 Timothy 2:8-15

Some of you may be here for the first time, so let me just
walk you through just two or three things by way of introduction, we’ll look at
the Scripture together and then I’m going to try to answer some objections to
complementarianism. All summer long we have been arguing what we have labeled
just as shorthand “complementarianism.” That is, that men and women are designed
to complement one another; they’re not identical in their nature and their
roles; they are equal before God in His justifying grace; in membership, in the
family of God, they are equally loved of God, used of Him in a variety of ways;
but they’re actually complementary–they are different. We’ve said that the motto
of Scripture is vive la difference! It’s just wonderful that men and women are
different and whereas, in this society, any admission that there’s difference
between men and women is sort of frowned upon as if this is somehow punitive
towards women. The fact of the matter is that this is something to be
celebrated. The Bible never apologizes for the fact that God has made men and
women different; it celebrates that fact because we complement one another. So,
we’ve been making an argument all summer long that this is in fact, what the
Bible teaches. That God created men and women equal in their essential dignity
and human personhood, but different and n is the church as part of God’s created
design. That’s how He meant it to be. He meant for men to take a spiritual
responsibility in leadership in the home and in the church, and we’ve argued
over and over that God teaches in the Bible that spiritual leadership in the
church, for instance, is to be taken up by qualified male elders. Thus, the
teaching office of the church is restricted to men who meet the range of
qualifications that God has established in His Word. And we also argued two
weeks ago when we were together that the preaching and teaching ministry in the
church is undelegatably vested in the elders of the church who are qualified
according to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Now, we based those assertions about
complementarianism on a range of New Testament passages, and we singled out five
the last time we were looking at this. I’ve got those five listed on your sheet.
What I’d like you to do is go to 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and let’s refresh our minds
with that Scripture as we launch into answering some objections that are raised
to complementarianism.

Here’s what 1 Timothy 2:11-14 says. “Let a woman
quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness, but I do not allow a
woman to teach or exercise authority over a man but to remain quiet for it was
Adam who was first created and then Eve. It was not Adam who was deceived but
the woman who being quite deceived fell into transgression.” This is one of the
four passages that we spent some time looking at the last time we were together.

Now, flip your page over and you will see the 19
objections that I’m going to attempt to respond to. We’ve said all along, that
there are a variety of ways that people argue against the teaching of Scripture
on this particular point. Some people will say, “The Bible is wrong.” And
frankly, we’re not going to spend time responding to people who outright reject
the Bible on this issue. I think most of us here are evangelical Christians; we
have a high view of biblical authority. If there is someone who doesn’t have a
high view of biblical authority, and you’d like me to give you some reasons why
to have a high view of biblical authority, I’d be delighted to talk with you
about that at some time. I’m going to leave those kinds of objections aside. I
think I can answer them competently; I’ve had to do it in the past, but for most
of us those aren’t the things that we’re wrestling with.

The second thing that we hear is this kind of an
argument. “Well, the Scripture says that, but the Spirit is saying to us…” And
so it’s the Spirit versus Scripture. Frankly, I’m not going to get into that
very much tonight, because in and of itself, that has enormous problems with
regard to a real high view of Scripture. But, if you are wrestling with that and
you’d like some answers along those lines, I’d be delighted to talk with you
about those things as would any of our ministers on the church staff. What I
want to zero in on are some of the kinds of objections raised to complementarian
teaching by those who more or less would think of themselves as evangelical,
conservative, Bible-believing Christians. The kinds of objections that they
might raise to this particular teaching.

Frankly, the number of objections that have been
raised are staggering. I was reading an article by a good Southern Baptist
friend, Tom Shriner, who is a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in
Louisville, KY, now. He was writing an overview of some of the articles that
have been written over this subject during the year 2001, and he said that as he
was reviewing the literature, he realized that book after book after book was
being written to rebut the historic Christian view on this issue. And each of
these new books was trying to come up with new arguments, whereas those who were
writing from a historic Christian perspective just had to keep saying the same
thing over and over again. He said, “How many ways can you say the same thing?”
And yet, when each of these new books come out, new arguments come along
attempting to foster these views. Let me say, as I’ve tried to catalog some of
the views, I have to agree with Tom. I am amazed at the types of arguments and
objections that are being generated every day. So, when I give you 19, this is
just a sampling of the kinds of things I have run into in my reading.

Some Common
Objections to the Complementarian view, which, though often emotively powerful
and personally significant, cannot answer it or do justice to the Scriptures.

(The complete list appears at the end of the text)

1. These texts are examples of
temporary compromise with the patriarchal status quo, while the main thrust of
Scripture is toward the leveling of gender-based role differences?

In other words, “Don’t you think that these Scripture
passages reflect the patriarchical, hierarchical–and if you wanted to get
polemical about it–male-chauvinist attitude of the culture around the New
Testament, rather than reflecting the general biblical thrust towards equality
in gender roles?” My answer to that is, “No.” Let me tell you why. First of all,
the male-female role distinctions in these passages. Isn’t it interesting that
Paul goes out of his way to tell you where they come from, and twice he tells
you they come from where? Creation. And once he tells you they come from where?
The Law. By the Law he meant the five books of Moses, the pillar, the essential,
the first and prime part of the Old Testament canon. And so, Paul grounds this
teaching not in the contemporary patriarchal status quo of Greco-Roman culture
at the turn of the first millennium. No, he grounds it in the Bible; he grounds
it in the Creation, in the order that God set forth in Genesis one and two, and
in Scripture, and in the Scripture written by Moses. Secondly, if you read the
Bible, what you don’t find is some sort of a thrust at abolishing male spiritual
leadership in the home and the church, and female respect for that spiritual
leadership in the home and the church. If there’s any theme, it’s of the word
“transforming” the way we relate to one another improperly, but reinforcing and
expanding the ways that we relate to one another properly. So there’s no
biblical theme working against the idea of male-female distinction and role
differences. And thirdly, you will never find the Bible bringing an indictment
against the loving headship of a man who is the spiritual leader of his home.
Show me a passage in the Bible that indicts a man for being arrogant when he’s
trying to do his best as a loving, spiritual leader in the home. You won’t find
an indictment of a man doing that in the Bible. And if that is, as our
evangelical feminist friends say, actually denigrating women to suggest that a
man should have spiritual headship, then you certainly don’t find any indication
that it is in the Scriptures. So, for that reason, I’d say, “No, these texts are
not an example of a temporary compromise with the patriarchal status quo.” Paul
was not the kind of guy that compromised with contemporary standards. Remember
how Paul reacted to the Jewish people who told him that all of his missionary
helpers had to be circumcised? “No, I won’t do that.” That is how Paul dealt
with people who told him that he had to do things that were unbiblical. Now, if
there were people who were struggling over things, he’d bend over backwards to
accommodate them, but the minute somebody said to him, “You’ve got to do it this
way,” and they didn’t have a biblical reason for it, he’d buck up and say, “No,
I’m not and, in fact, I’m going to tell everybody that I’m not.” So Paul by
nature was not a compromiser.

2. The arguments made to defend
the exclusion of women from the pastorate today parallel to the arguments that
Christians made to defend slavery in the nineteenth century.

This is a very common objection that you hear in circles today, and it’s a
very effective ad hominem. “Yea, you guys who don’t think that women should be
preachers; you guys that talk about all this submission and headship business
are making the same argument that the people who defended slavery were making a
century or more ago.” What do we say to that? Again, I say, “No.” The arguments
are not the same. Let me give you two or three examples of what I mean. First of
all, the preservation of marriage is not parallel with the preservation of
slavery. Marriage is rooted in Genesis 1 and 2. Jesus explicitly says marriage
is something that is derived from the principles that Moses gave us in Genesis
2:24-28. Jesus himself roots marriage in the original Creation order. Nowhere is
slavery listed as part of the original Creation order. In fact, when you go to
slave laws of the Covenant Code in Exodus 21-24, you find out a couple of very
interesting things. All but one of the slave laws in the Covenant Code written
by Moses and given to Israel, are about slaves rights. So, far from being a code
to establish slavery, the Covenant Code was designed to mitigate the worst
aspects of slavery experienced in the sphere of Israel’s life. So, it is a very,
very different thing with regard to marriage and slavery. Secondly, Paul’s
regulations about how husbands and wives relate to one another in marriage do
assume the goodness of marriage. None of Paul’s instructions of slavery assume
the goodness of slavery. Third, and finally, Paul’s regulations concerning
marriage are just as rooted in the Creation order as is marriage itself. We’ve
already argued that marriage itself is rooted in Genesis 2:24-28, but remember
Paul’s instructions on male-female role relationships in the church in 1 Timothy
2:8-15, are also rooted in Genesis 1, 2, and 3. So Paul goes right back to his
arguments on how men and women are to relate in marriage and in the church to
the original Creation order unlike arguments that defend slavery. Let me suggest
that the implication by our evangelical feminist friends who argue, “Look, you
guys are making the same kind of arguments that people who are arguing for
pro-slavery a century and a half ago were making.” I think that argument could
go the other way just as easily. That is, I think a lot of good people in the
nineteenth century were influenced by their culture more than they were by the
Scripture in this area. I would argue the same thing in regard to our
evangelical feminist friends. They’re more influenced by the culture than they
are by the Scripture. That argument could actually be turned around back to
them.

3. But Jesus liberated women! He
exploded our hierarchical traditions and opened the way for women to be given
access to all ministry roles.

What I want to ask first is, “Exactly where in the gospels are you getting
this idea?” Jesus often turns out to be the spokesman for whatever
“Johnny-come-lately” movement somebody wants to co-opt him for. Remember when
one of the great historians of the Jesus Quest Movement, the movement to go back
and find the real historical Jesus, made this observation about many of the
people who had been involved in this quest for the historical Jesus? He said,
“They looked down the long well of history in their search for Jesus, and when
they saw their reflection at the bottom of the well, Jesus looked an awful lot
like they did.” In other words, they made Jesus into their own image. When they
stripped away all of the accessories and incrustations and accoutrements to
Jesus that they claimed had been developed over the years, Jesus looked a whole
lot like they did. Jesus’ values looked like their values, and constantly, I
find people making that argument. By the way, that is one of the beautiful
things about a very significant change in the Baptist faith and message. Some of
you have followed the changes that have been made by our conservative,
evangelical southern Baptist friends in the Baptist Faith and Message over the
last several years. One of them was to change to something that had been put in
the Baptist Faith and Message about a half century ago. It was a statement that
Jesus was the criterion by which we interpret Scripture. Now, A. you might think
that there’s nothing wrong with that statement. B. You might think, “I don’t
know what that statement means.” C. You might think, “I’ve never thought of
Jesus as a hermeneutical principle before.” Jesus as a criterion by which we
interpret Scripture, and actually, our reactions to all three of those
statements would be interesting to follow up on, but let me tell you why that
statement was put in there. That statement was put in there by Baptists who were
Neo-Orthodox that wanted to undercut the authority of Scripture in certain
places by being able to say, “Yes, well, that’s not in accord with what we know
Jesus would think or do.” Even if they had no indication from the Scripture
itself that Jesus would think or do those things. And so, our good conservative,
evangelical Baptist friends basically went back in there and said, “We’re not
going to let you have that little escape hatch because what the Bible says is
what Jesus says. The Bible is Jesus’ book and we’re not going to let you play
Jesus versus the Bible.” This kind of argument, that Jesus liberated women, is
often used in that sort of a surreptitious way–Jesus versus the rest of the
Bible.

So, the first thing I want to ask is, “What are the
exact passages that you’re pointing to where Jesus liberated women, say, to
become ministers, or to become the heads of their home, or whatever else it
might be.” Of course, there are not examples forthcoming. No one denies that
Jesus treated women well, and no one denies that Jesus’ ministry had
revolutionary implications for women. And no one denies that women fare
extremely well in Christianity as compared to, say, Rabbinic Judaism in Jesus’
time. But when Jesus chose His core of disciples, whom did he choose? Here’s his
opportunity to be a liberator, and he chose twelve men–one of them was a louse.
Surely, there was a gal around somewhere who was better than Judas. So, there
was His big opportunity, and He didn’t do it. Again, this is a Jesus versus the
Bible kind of argument that’s being pulled off here.

By the way, some of you who have picked copies of 50
Common Questions on Manhood and Womanhood that we have on display in the Church
Library will notice that many of these questions come out of that book. I’m
giving my own off-the-cuff responses to them, but that’s one reason why we
recommend that little book. It’s got good questions and good answers on these
issues.

4. The significant roles women
had with Paul in ministry show that his teachings do not mean that women should
be excluded from ministry.

The way that is phrased is misleading. We’re not arguing that women should
be excluded from ministry. We’re arguing that women should not be elders and
pastors. That is very different from saying that women shouldn’t be in ministry.
Women have always been and will always be in ministry. We delight that
women are in ministry. The question is: How are they going to be in ministry,
and what are they going to do? What are the roles they will have in ministry and
what are the roles that are going to be reserved for elders and preachers who
are godly, qualified men? The issue isn’t whether women should be excluded from
ministry; the issue is whether any of the women serving with Paul in ministry
fulfilled roles that would be inconsistent with a limitation to the eldership of
men. When you study the story, the answer is that women didn’t fulfill roles
that would contradict Paul’s teaching on the proper role relationship of men and
women in the church, and especially and all male, godly, qualified eldership.

Following on that, one might ask, “Well, what about
Priscilla?

5. Priscilla taught Apollos didn’t
she (Acts 18:26)? And she is even mentioned before her husband Aquila. This
shows that the practice of the early church did not exclude women from the
teaching office of the church.
Priscilla taught Apollos, and she was always listed first–Priscilla
and Aquila.” Look, I’ve had plenty of Priscillas in my life, and I’m thankful
for them; they’re some sitting in this room. But let me tell you that the most
Priscilla-like women that I have met have no desire whatsoever to be preachers.
They’ve greatly impacted preachers; they’ve given wise and godly counsel;
they’ve even had to administer some admonitions to preachers; but they’ve done
it privately and respectfully of those men’s spiritual authority in the church.
It’s not a power thing for them. I think it’s very dangerous for us to go back
and try to reconstruct Priscilla and Aquila’s relationship. Paul doesn’t tell us
what their relationship was like. We have precious little about how they related
to Apollos. So, what do you see happening? People try and read things into the
text and then argue from the things they’ve read into the text for a particular
view.

6. But the Bible says that there
were women who prophesied in the New Testament church, so how can you not be in
favor of women being pastors and elders?

7. Seventh argument: Paul says in
1 Corinthians 14:34 says that “women should remain silent in the churches,” but
it doesn’t seem like your position is really literal because of how much
speaking you really do allow to women. How do you account for this
straightforward prohibition of women speaking?

You don’t really say that they have to be silent in the church, so
aren’t you just being as easy going with the interpretation and application of
Scripture as we are when we say that women are able to be ministers and elders
now? Well, again the answer is, “No.” We’re not being inconsistent because you
have to understand what Paul is asking women to be silent in. Paul himself
clearly says that women have the ability to prophecy (1 Corinthians 14); they
have the ability to pray, to sing; so there is all sorts of verbal participation
for women in the worship of church. You have to ask yourself what Paul means
when he says “women are to be silent in the church.” Does he mean women have to
be totally silent? Are they under a gag order? Are they like some sort of monk
in the Roman Catholic Church who has taken a vow of silence and can’t speak in
the confines of the church building? No. Paul tells us what kind of speaking he
is talking about in 1 Corinthians 14. We looked at that several weeks ago; it’s
authoritative teaching–that’s the kind of speaking he is talking about. He’s
talking about preaching and teaching the Word in an authoritative way the way an
elder or minister is to teach the Word. So, if you’ll look at 1 Corinthians 14,
1 Corinthians 11, you can figure that out. Paul will use a phrase and that
phrase has to be understood in context. We’re not arguing that phrases don’t
need to be understood in context; we’re arguing that they do need to be
understood in context. We use all sorts of figures of speech which we really
mean, but which we don’t mean to be taken in some sort of a crass-literal
nature. If one of you comes up and makes a good argument to me and I say, “He
hit the nail on the head.” Nobody else in this room would think that I was
asserting that that person had taken a hammer out in the course of our
conversation and smashed a nail into a piece of wood, because I was using an
idiomatic expression. So you have to interpret what I’ve said. On the other
hand, if Vic Clark had been over to my house working on something, and I said,
“He hit the nail on the head,” I might have been talking about Vic hitting a
nail into the wood. So you have to look at the context to determine how the
language is being used. We’re simply saying, “Go and see what Paul says when he
says that women must remain silent.” When you look at the context, he’s not
saying universal gag order on women speaking at church; he’s saying, “Women,
leave the preaching of the Word to the ministers and elders.” That’s what he’s
saying–pay attention to the context.

One of the favorite arguments is, “But what about
Galatians 3:28?” Galatians 3:28 says ‘There’s neither male nor female;’ you’re
all one in Christ. Doesn’t that take away the gender as a basis for role
distinctions in the church?” The answer is, “No.” Think about it. If we’re going
to take “there is neither male nor female” to the max, let’s don’t stop at
gender roles. What about homosexuality? That’ll work for them just as well as it
will for an evangelical feminist arguing for gender equality, won’t it? There’s
neither male nor female? That sounds like a pretty handy text. But clearly, Paul
is not saying that there is no longer maleness and femaleness. He’s arguing
something very different here. Yes, men and women are equally justified by
faith, equally freed from the bondage of legalism, equally the children of God,
equally clothed with Jesus Christ, equally possessed by Christ, and equally
heirs of the promises of God. But there’s still women and there’s still men.
Paul will go on in that book and others to address them distinctly in their
roles as men and women and ask them to act certain ways because they are men or
women. So this passage is not an argument against the continuing existence of
anything distinct about men and women. Certainly it’s not an argument against
male-female role relationships and distinctions in those role relationships in
the church.


9. But there were women prophets and leaders in the Old Testament. How do you
explain that?

How about Deborah? How about these prophetesses in the Old Testament? Let
me just stop right there and say, “Praise God, for that.” I say that for a
couple of reasons. By the fact that God chose women to be prophetesses in the
Old Testament, and by the way, in the New Testament as well, you see evidence
that God and the authoritative, Holy Spirit inspired prophets and apostles who
wrote Scripture did not think that women were some sort of inferior being
incapable morally or intellectually to fulfill some significant role in the
Kingdom. You have just gotten proof positive that God, who wrote Scripture and
the men that He used to write it were not chauvinists. They openly declared that
God used women in these extraordinary ways. So let’s stop and praise God for
that forever debunks the idea that the “thugs” that wrote Scripture were
knuckle-dragging Neanderthals that just need to be enlightened into our modern
ways of looking at women which are much more higher and more appreciative and
affirming ways of looking at women. No, these men who wrote Scripture
acknowledged that God used intelligent women for significant roles in His
kingdom–even the roles of prophetesses. Let me also say this. The office of
prophecy and the act of prophecy are not tied together. Saul, it was said, was
numbered among the prophets. He didn’t have the office of prophet, and his
prophesying was taken away from him. Secondly, God used a lot of folks in the
Scripture as conduits to speak to His people that were not taken to be role
models for how the offices of the church were to be operated. For instance,
Balaam, the enemy of God’s people was used to prophecy to God’s people. And
friends, without being offensive to my dear sisters in Christ, let me remind you
that Balaam’s ass was also used to prophecy to the people of God. He used a
donkey to speak His word to Balaam. So, God can use anything He wants to
prophecy, and is may or may not have any implication whatsoever with regard to
the issue of office in the Church.

Finally, female
prophetesses, especially in the Old Testament, are the exception that proves the
rule. For instance, if you look at the story of Deborah, it is clear that one
reason that God brings Deborah onto the scene to take up that role as a judge
and a prophetess, is because Barak is wimping out on his responsibilities. So,
to rebuke Israel, God raises up Deborah to basically say, “Barak, get off your
duff and do your work, man. You’re called by God and you’re falling down on the
job. If you fall down on the job, then I’ll just raise someone up that normally
is not called to be in this role.” So she’s the exception that proves the rule
in that regard.


10. If a woman is not allowed to teach men in a regular, official way, why is it
permissible for her to teach children?

Again, the premise is the
reason we say women aren’t to teach and preach authoritatively in the church is
that they are incompetent to do so. That is not our argument. Furthermore, the
dynamic of women teaching children, and male children, does not impinge upon the
dynamic of showing proper distinction in male-female role relationships amongst
adults. That’s an entirely different situation. Although I would want to say,
and I’m very happy that we’ve got a lot of men, including elders in this church,
that invest themselves in Sunday School teaching with young children. We should
not simply hand off the teaching of young children to women as if either a.
that’s the only thing women can do, or b. that men ought not be involved in
that. What a tremendous blessing it is for young children to see godly men in
Sunday School classes and in Day School classes and rolling around with them on
the floor in Kindergarten and interacting with them. Children need to see godly
men and women relating to them.


11. Isn’t the complementarian view guilty of a selective literalism when you say
some commands in a text are permanently valid and others, like, “Don’t wear
braided hair” or “Do wear a head covering,” or “Don’t eat shrimp,” are
culturally conditioned and not absolute?

You’re selective; you get all bent out of shape when we don’t follow 1
Timothy 2, or 1 Peter 3, or 1 Corinthians 11 or 14, but you guys pick and choose
too. Let me say this. If you show me that it is what the Bible says, I don’t
care how uncomfortable it is for me, I’ll do it. That’s my commitment. If the
Bible says it, I don’t care how uncomfortable it is for me, I’ll do it.
Secondly, no, we’re not selective. Let’s go back to the “shrimp” argument. This
is not a matter of going back to some obscure ceremonial law in Leviticus and
yanking it out and plopping it on your plate today. I didn’t go to any Old
Testament passages, I went to New Testament passages. Interestingly, every New
Testament passage I went to was a cross-cultural passage; it wasn’t a passage
where it was Jews talking to Jews. It was Jewish Christians talking to Gentile
Christians and Jewish Christians in a cross-cultural setting mostly outside of
Israel. So, if ever there was going to be a time in which you are breaking down
cultural traditions and constraints, you would think it would be them and
—boom–you have this uniform testimony that this is the way male-female
relationships are supposed to work. So, again, are we being selective? No. When
you go to those passages like “Don’t wear braided hair,” and “Let your external
adornment not be in the wearing of fine clothes and dresses and pearls and
such,” you have to interpret those things in context. Again, I want to say that
we have to be ready to do whatever those passages say. It’s just a matter of
understanding what they mean. And then the argument comes, “But doesn’t Paul
argue for head covering for women in worship” by appealing to the created order
in 1 Corinthians 11.

So, are your women wearing head
covering? Well, there are several questions to be asked in 1 Corinthians 11. We
looked at them a little bit two or three weeks ago, but one thing is this. Is
Paul saying that creation dictates a head covering that is not hair, or a hat or
a veil? Or, is he saying that it dictates a head covering which is long hair, or
is he saying that is dictates a head covering which appropriately expresses, in
that cultural context, that a woman is acknowledging her femininity and her
particular role that God has assigned in the Lord’s church? Those are three
legitimate things to talk about in that passage. Whichever one it is, I’m ready
to do. Now, I don’t think it’s the first and maybe not even the second one; but
whatever it is, I’m ready to do because I’m not going to be selective with
regard to Scripture. Again, that is an argument trying to make an appeal to
Paul’s teaching look ridiculous in light of our current practices today. In my
opinion, it’s not really a respectful argument against Christians.


13. What about missionaries? How is it consistent to forbid the eldership to
women in our churches and then send them out as missionaries to do things
forbidden at home?

Well, I certainly hope that we don’t. Let me say that the greatest women
missionaries in history never intended to go to the mission field to do what
they couldn’t do in their home churches. In fact, the greatest women
missionaries in history were supportive of precisely this kind of a
complementary view of male-female role relationships, and an all male preaching,
teaching, pasturing office. You can look through the greatest women missionaries
in history, and they are in lock step on that. There are gazillions of things
that women can do on the mission field just like they can do here in the home
church that do not violate these principles. That is why they go to the mission
field. They don’t go to the mission field to get away from these principles;
they go to aid the work of the expansion of the gospel. That’s why we send out
women missionaries here at First Pres–not so they can go do things there that
they can’t do here but for which our brothers and sisters across the sea and the
missionaries that are there that they are going to be supporting and working
alongside of are in desperate need for.

That’s all we have time for tonight. Let’s
pray.


Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word,
and as out of step as Your Word is with the thinking of so much of the culture
today, we pray that, first of all, You would help us to be faithful to it;
secondly, that we would be gracious in the way that we are faithful to it, and
kind in dealing with those who differ with us. We also pray that we would
practically practice this in our own lives and congregations. That will mean
praying for men to really be spiritual leaders, and not just to have that as
some unrealized, unstriven for ideal, and that we would really pray for godly
women in our church to respect the spiritual leadership of husbands and elders
in the congregation and to support that work and to train younger women in the
truth of the word and in the practice of proper male-female role relationships.
We pray, that as a congregation, we would be a sweet savor of Christ in the way
we live this out before the watching world. We pray that it would be a blessing
to us and a witness to Christ and the gospel, and that it would bring you glory
and honor. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.



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Some Common
Objections to the Complementarian view, which,
though often emotively powerful and personally significant,
cannot answer it or do justice to the Scriptures

1. These texts are examples of
temporary compromise with the patriarchal status quo, while the main thrust of
Scripture is toward the leveling of gender-based role differences.

2. The arguments made to defend
the exclusion of women from the pastorate today parallel to the arguments
Christians made to defend slavery in the nineteenth century.

3. But Jesus liberated women! He
exploded our hierarchical traditions and opened the way for women to be given
access to all ministry roles.

4. The significant roles women
had with Paul in ministry show that his teachings do not mean that women should
be excluded from ministry.

5. But Priscilla taught Apollos
didn’t she (Acts 18:2 6 )? And she is even mentioned before her husband Aquila.
This shows that the practice of the early church did not exclude women from the
teaching office of the church.

6. But the Bible says that there
were women who prophesied in the NT church, so how can you not be in favor of
women being pastors and elders?

7. 1 Corinthians 14:34 says that
“women should remain silent in the churches,” but it doesn’t seem like your
position is really literal because of how much speaking you really do allow to
women. How do you account for this straightforward prohibition of women
speaking?

8. But doesn’t Paul’s statement
that “There is . . . neither male nor female . . . for you are all one in Christ
Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) take away gender as a basis for distinction of roles in
the church?

9. But there were women prophets
and leaders in the Old Testament. How do you explain that?

10. If a woman is not allowed to
teach men in a regular, official way, why is it permissible for her to teach
children?

11. Isn’t the complementarian
view guilty of a selective literalism when you say some commands in a text are
permanently valid and others, like, “Don’t wear braided hair” or “Do wear a head
covering,” are culturally conditioned and not absolute?

12. But doesn’t Paul argue for a
head covering for women in worship by appealing to the created order in 1
Corinthians 11:13-15? Why is the head covering not binding today while the
teaching concerning submission and headship is?

13. How is it consistent to
forbid the eldership to women in our churches and then send them out as
missionaries to do things forbidden at home?

14. Do you deny to women the
right to use the gifts God has given them? Does not God’s giving a spiritual
gift imply that He endorses its use for the edification of the church.

15. If God has genuinely called
a woman to be a pastor, then how can you say she should not be one? In Romans
16:7, Paul wrote, “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in
prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ
before I was.” Isn’t Junias a woman? And wasn’t she an apostle? And doesn’t that
mean that Paul was willing to acknowledge that a woman held a very authoritative
position over men in the early church?

16. Isn’t it true that the
reason Paul did not permit women to teach was that women were not well-educated
in the first century? But that reason does not apply today. In fact, since women
are as well-educated as men today, shouldn’t we allow both women and men to be
pastors?

17. How do you know that your
interpretation of Scripture is not more influenced by your background and
culture than by what the authors of Scripture actually intended?

18. Isn’t giving women access to
all offices and roles a simple matter of justice that even our society
recognizes?

19. If a group of texts is hotly
disputed, wouldn’t it be a good principle of interpretation not to allow them
any significant influence over our view of manhood and womanhood? Since there is
significant disagreement in the church over the issues of men’s and women’s
roles, should we not view this issue as having a very low level of importance in
defining denominational, institutional and congregational standards of belief
and practice?

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