Charima Magazine’s J. Lee Grady has long been a feminist in Christian clothing (https://gunnerq.com/2017/10/16/ten-truths-the-church-tells-women/). But he’s still at it, now with even more arguments that make even less sense.
Feb. 7, 2018
…A couple of weeks ago, the Calvinist preacher [John Piper] stirred up a hornet’s nest when he said on his “Ask Pastor John” podcast that women should never be allowed to teach seminary classes. Piper said: “If it is unbiblical to have women as pastors, how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded?”
Anyone who knows Piper’s background would not have been shocked that he said this. He’s a strict complementarian, meaning that he believes only men can teach and lead in the church and that women must follow them supportively. Most Calvinists, by definition, share this view. In the world of Reformed Christianity, women have agreed to take a back seat.
I certainly support Piper’s right to hold what he views as a faithful interpretation of Scripture. But because he is injecting his opinions into the mainstream, I can’t sit back and ignore the controversy when I’ve dedicated my life to empowering and supporting my Christian sisters who are in ministry. Piper’s words not only insulted women; I believe his message grieved the Holy Spirit and could seriously hinder today’s church from advancing the gospel.
No Christian would support another believer’s views as valid until he tries to teach them to others. Either the believer’s views are wrong and the Christian points it out, or the believer’s views do not become invalid just because they might gain acceptance. We deal in truth, not in market share.
Before I start fisking his reasons, however, there’s an important theological point to make:
PROPHECY IS NOT AUTHORITY.
Prophets are people who deliver messages from God. That’s their job. They are not responsible for what the recipients do with the messages. It is very disturbing that a Charismatic is conflating “I have a message from God” with “I am an important leader who must be obeyed”. Teaching and leadership are positions of authority. Prophecy is not; the authority comes from the source of the message, not its conveyance. Jeremiah was not responsible for the Babylonian Exile; Jonah did not save Nineveh.
Now then. *snaps on surgical gloves*
1. The Old Testament upholds the value of women as teachers. Proverbs tells us that, in a family, wisdom comes from both father and mother. “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother” (Prov. 1:8). But a mother’s teaching and godly influence are not restricted to the home. In Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified as a woman preaching in the streets!
On what grounds is a mother teaching her children NOT restricted to her home? Can she boss the neighbor’s children? The neighbors?
This is a thinly-veiled application of Alinsky’s “crash the system” rhetoric. “Did your mother teach you to look before crossing the street when you were five years old? Did she tell you about Jonah being swallowed by a whale? Then you should have no problem with female clergy!” Maybe Dad lets her do that because he trusts her and kiddie was too young to be taught much of anything anyway? But no, if Mommy can lead her five-year old then Jezebel can wear Ahab’s crown.
And if wisdom was once anthropomorphized as female in Scripture then all women must be… um… what point was he trying to make?
We have several examples of women who held leadership positions in Israel, including Miriam and Deborah. And we also see that when Israel was backslidden, and the book of the Law had been forgotten, King Josiah sent his representatives to find a “prophetess” named Huldah (see 2 Kings 22:14) who delivered the word of the Lord. At a time when even the priests had fallen away from God, this faithful woman continued to teach the truth, and she did not hold back from speaking it.
All of them were prophetesses. Miriam’s only act of leadership was criticizing Moses and she got punished by God for that. As for Huldah, the message she gave to King Josiah at his request did not even contain commands.
2. Jesus gave women their voice back. Jesus ministered at a time when women had no rights. Yet He elevated women to a position of dignity, and He especially reached those who suffered as social outcasts and abuse victims. Jesus also gathered a group of women and discipled them at a time when Jewish rabbis believed it was wrong to teach women from the Torah. He even sent the Samaritan woman to preach to all the men of her village.
That’s a lie: Jesus did not send the Samaritan woman to preach. (John 4:28) In fact, he never sent any of the women around him to preach or teach. All of his disciples and Apostles were male. It’s true that Jesus treated women like human beings; so what? This kind of all-or-nothing mindset indicates Social Justice, not Christianity.
The gospel liberates women from second-class status. And it surely empowers women to speak for God.
“Speak for God”. Oh my, that’s a troubling statement even for a man to make. Prophets do not speak for God; they relay what God speaks. Teachers do not speak for God; they teach what God has already taught. Christ is not dead, the canon is closed and He didn’t leave behind a priesthood to act in His absence.
3. We have New Testament examples of women teachers. I’m not sure how John Piper would explain the ministry of Priscilla, since we see her in the book of Acts instructing the young apostle named Apollos (see Acts 18:24-28). Priscilla is the grandmother of all women seminary teachers. She and her husband, Aquilla, traveled with the apostle Paul and helped lay the spiritual foundations of the early church. To ignore Priscilla’s ministry is to dishonor a true mother of the faith.
A husband & wife team is useless as an example of standalone female teachers. Grady is stretching Bible accounts out of all reasonable proportions.
Piper believes only men can teach men, especially men who are called to be pastors. But by maintaining this position he discounts the ministry of biblical woman such as Euodia, Syntyche, Chloe, Nympha, Junia and Phoebe, all who worked alongside Paul.
Phillippians 4:2: “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.”
1 Corinthians 1:11: “For some members of Chloe’s household have told me about your quarrels, my dear brothers and sisters.”
Colossians 4:15: “Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.” Nympha was mentioned as an address.
Romans 16:7: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did.”
Romans 16:1-2: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.”
The first four “ministering women” are straight-up lies and Grady must know this, having surely looked them up many times to use them as examples. Junia… hmm… some translations give Junias… why would a woman have been put in prison with men? Nothing in the Bible indicates Junia is female.
Phoebe is the only notable of the group but “please help her out” is not “worked alongside Paul”.
4. We cannot use Paul’s words as a universal ban on women teachers. Piper and other complementarians base all their opposition to women teachers on 1 Timothy 2:12, where Paul says he does not allow women to “usurp” a man’s authority. Yet Paul also allowed Priscilla to teach, sent Phoebe as a deacon to Rome (see Romans 16:1-2), and defended the right of Euodia and Syntyche to do ministry work (see Phil. 4:2-4). So obviously what Paul told Timothy was not a universal, all-inclusive directive; he was addressing a specific heresy in the Ephesian church that required swift discipline.
Paul allowed Priscilla & Aquilla to help him; that cannot be construed as Paul violating his own commands against women teaching. Looser translations describe Phoebe as a deacon but tighter ones like KJV and NASB don’t, and women don’t pass Biblical deacon qualification anyway. Phil 4:2-4 does not speak of any “right” to do ministry work; it does speak of the local church helping those women straighten themselves out.
To all my sisters I say: Don’t be discouraged. If you sense the call of God, and you know the fire of the Holy Spirit is burning in your heart, don’t let the narrow views of some Christians stop you from pursuing your dream.
Or the narrow view of Scripture as written.
Men may seek to limit and restrict you, but God has the last word.
Preserved as Scripture. Not subject to change.
He declared on the day of Pentecost: “Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17b).
PROPHECY. IS. NOT. AUTHORITY!