The Women Elder Controversy
The Women Elder Controversy
By Rev. David M. Berman Th.D.
Lead Pastor of Christian Life Fellowship Church
Christian & Missionary Alliance Church
When dealing with the question “Should women be in ministry?” the question should be rephrased. The proper question should be “What ministry should women be in?” The reason we have this question in the first place is due to the upheaval in our culture as it moves away from the biblical mandates of personal behavior and the order of authority. It used to be a given that men were ministers. It also used to be a given that marriage is between a man and a woman. God is the God of order. When he created Adam and Eve he had set things in order. When sin entered the world through the disobedience of the first couple, the world was introduced to disorder. That is what sin brings. The multiplication of sin has brought more disorder. The Christian life is really a fight between order and disorder. It is a fight between authority and rebellion. As we submit to God’s Word, we walk in order. However, if we allow the pressures of a confused, disorderly culture to move us principally away from God’s Word, we are walking toward more and more confusion. This is true no matter what our “feelings” may tell us. God’s Word is not subject to feelings and emotions. It is the lamp unto our feet and the light unto our path (Psalm 119:105). The world system (sinful disorder) will always attempt to influence the biblical Church (order and authority). All people, including young and old, male or female, are vital to the Lord’s Church. The question is a matter of authority and spiritual position in God’s plan in this present age (The Church Age). It has nothing to do with the value or worth of either men or women. I will be using a few theological terms which may not be understood by some who read this, so I will mention the words and define them now:
1) Hermeneutics: This means the established rules of Bible interpretation such as who is talking to who etc.
2) Exegesis: This word means to draw from the whole of scripture without putting one’s own preconceived idea or prejudices into any text of scripture.
3) Eisegeses: This means isolating a text out of context and is the opposite of exegesis.
Let us first look at verses concerning this important matter of God’s delegated authority and order.
Authority and Order:
1 Corinthians 14:40 “Let all things be done decently and in order.”
Titus 1:5 “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.”
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
1 Thessalonians 1:6 “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost.”
1 Timothy 5:17 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”
Revelation 1:20-2:1 “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” (Messengers here are probably human ministers called “angels”.)
1 Timothy 5:17 “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.”
1 Thessalonians 3:2 “And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.”
1 Timothy 6:11 “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”
Colossians 1:24-25 “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God.”
We see and will continue to see clearly from the New Testament that God has established in the New Covenant the call to order and godliness with very specific roles for men and women. In our modern day, these roles are challenged by society. Unfortunately, many Christians are not satisfied living within the parameters that God has established for His delegated authority. This has led to preposterous scripture twisting to force a conclusion that is more palatable to the rebellious human condition and the culture of confusion it produces.
The controversy concerning women in ministry is a relatively new one. Unlike other controversies within the Church, this question has been settled since the beginning.
Those who now believe in the ordination of women elders are in these main camps:
• Egalitarian View: The Bible teaches that women can do anything that a man can do.
• Cultural View: The bible was in a cultural setting and like many other customs we do not hold to today, we should not hold to the custom of restricting women in any office in the Church.
• Experience-Driven; Post Cannon Revelation View: The Bible allows for future revelation on these matters because the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing.
• Bias in our own Interpretation View: The Bible has been misinterpreted for 2000 years. Now we are recognizing the error of our previous interpretation. The Holy Spirit is bringing clarity as God reveals our error.
Although there are many strains of arguments, these are the main threads on which the pro-women elders rest their conclusions. Let us look at each of these views to discover the answers to these positions. After examining these main arguments, we will examine the more obscure arguments.
Egalitarian View: The Bible teaches a woman can do anything a man can do
This is actually the underlining basis for all pro-woman elder views. It is in direct opposition to the complementarian view, which states that men and women are unique in creation and given different authority and natural gifting. This view is the basis for feminism. Feminism is the position that men and women are exactly the same with only physical differences. It states that culture has imposed a complementarian role on women. This position has evolved to modern Feminism which has a disdain for masculinity itself. Feminism started to become popular among the elite Socialites in the mid-1800’s until about 1920, which is known as the Woman’s Suffrage Movement (Imbornoni,n.d). This position slowly grew from there and then gained momentum greatly since the 1960s, which has led to our modern day western culture and laws. As it often is, pressure has been put upon the Church to “keep up with the times” and respond to the pressure by following the philosophical view of the world. As it always is, the Church is criticized for holding to “old fashioned” positions which become viewed as bigotry or sexism. For at least the last 40 years, the Church has had forces within attempting to confuse “missional” thinking with compromise in order to be “seeker sensitive”. We have had a failed experiment in this thinking in which we now have only 7% of Americans with a basic biblical world view (Goldman & DuBois, n.d.). The statistics are beyond troubling. Although we cannot make our doctrinal position based on a statistic, we certainly can see the obvious: the liberal “Missional” view is simply not working. In fact, it has decimated the West. Church attendance is very low, biblical literacy is even lower, the family is decimated, culture is vile and 58 million babies have been slaughtered in America on the altar of Moloch. The seeker-sensitive movement is a disaster by any measure. American Christianity is more about self-help speeches and “living your best life now” than it is about sacrifice for the Kingdom and disciple-making. The full egalitarian view in our culture has led to gender confusion, and Satan has taken full advantage of this. This gender confusion is a direct attack on the creation of God: “He made them male and female” (Genesis 5:2).
It is evident to anyone who has children that there are differences between male and female, but we do not have to even trust the obvious. Both sociology and biology show that there are distinct differences in the chemical and emotional makeup of men and women (Group Barna, 2016). Hormonal makeup and God’s design are seen and experienced every day and no one who is being honest can say otherwise. It is self-evident as well as obvious in others. The gender confusion is so bad that there are many in academic and political high places, who actually say “a person is whatever gender they decide at any given moment.” Then the same people also say they want women to be in authority in everything. Just how does that work? Can a man be president; then say he identifies as a woman? Is he (“she”) now the first woman president? I think you see their absurdity and the confusion has no bounds. We know that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1st Corinthians 14:33.)
This gender confusion is now being accepted as normal and codified in law using the same arguments for every liberal position: “It was cultural, old fashioned, a social construct”, or the most absurd theological argument which goes like this: “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality or transgenderism specifically, therefore He had no problem with it.” This sort of logic is nonsensical, to say the least. Jesus never uttered the exact words, “Thou shalt not marry your dog”, but are we to believe that He is ok with that? How about the fact that Jesus never mentioned a man getting drunk and beating his wife with a baseball bat, but are we now ok with that? Obviously not! It is an absurd argument.
The denomination, “The United Church of Christ”, hangs rainbow flags that read “God is still speaking” meaning homosexuality, and transgenderism is a word from God to be celebrated, and they use the sign of the covenant God made with Noah in their blasphemy. Please do not confuse my point; I am not in any way comparing a woman pastor with homosexuality. What I am comparing is the hermeneutical absurdity in all liberal unbiblical doctrine and practice. It is always the same arguments applied to each poisoned position.
The favorite verse used by this position is found in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” They say the “bible says there is no male or female in the Kingdom of God.”
This is perhaps the best example of biblical illiteracy and outcome desired hermeneutics. In Bible interpretation, context is king. The argument goes like this, “Here we see in the Word of God that the apostle Paul clearly says there is no difference between male and female. Since Paul said this, there can be no requirement for elders to be male. This is the New Covenant.”
It is hard to believe that any serious theologian would even consider such an absurd hermeneutical position. To take a verse like this so completely out of context would be evidence of either ignorance of proper hermeneutic principles, or an outright attempt to deceive for the purpose of twisting the Scriptures to a desired end. The third chapter of Galatians has absolutely nothing to do with authority in the home or the Church. Paul is dealing with the deception that the Judaizers were bringing into the Galatian Church. The deception is clearly expressed by Paul in Chapter 3, verses 1-6:
Galatians 3:1-6 “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Paul is rebuking them for believing that they must first live by the Old Testament religious laws (circumcision in particular) in order to become Christians. That is the point of the entire chapter. Examining the two verses before verse 28 we read:
Galatians 3:26-27 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
The direct context here is speaking that we believers are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ. Then the next verse says in context:
Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Any first-year Bible college student should be able to understand that it is basic hermeneutics to look at the context. Paul is obviously not making a blanket proclamation that there is absolutely no difference in authority between men and women! There is no mention here of church office or authority whatsoever. This has nothing to do with the qualification of the church office. In fact, if you are going to interpret this verse to say that men and women are equal in authority, you must, in order to be consistent, also say that a woman is equal in authority with her husband because there is no male or female in Christ. Of course, progressives also take that Jezebelic position. We know biblically, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the husband is the head of the wife. God has made specific requirements concerning who is in authority and who is not. When it comes to the family unit, it is clear that the husband is in authority:
Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”
We see how God makes the connection between the authority in the home and the Church in the following scripture verse:
1 Timothy 3:4-5 “One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?).
This passage clearly links the authority of a man in his home to the authority of men in the Church. It is clear that God put men in charge of His Church. God has established his authority structure and has clearly placed men in leadership over women. We see this principle in numerous places in the Bible. Below are a few more examples:
Titus 2:1-5 “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
1 Peter 3:1-6 “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”
1 Corinthians 11:8-9 “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
The egalitarian mindset is clearly in conflict with God’s word. It states that “The Bible was in a cultural setting and like many other customs we do not hold to today, we should not hold to the custom of restricting women in any office in the church” (Cultural View).
In this argument, the egalitarian would say that Jesus would not have picked women because the culture would not have accepted women. This completely ignores the reality that Jesus constantly offended the Pharisees when He engaged with women. He shared a drink of water and spoke to the Samaritan woman in John: 4; He spoke to prostitutes and showed them their worth as human beings, and said to the woman caught in adultery, “Your sins are forgiven” (John 8: 3-11) (which no man could ever say, and at that time the Jews mainly thought Jesus was just a man. He said to the obstinate religious Jewish leaders, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
In Matthew 23:27, are we really to believe that Jesus picked the 12 men because He was worried about what the culture thought? It should also be pointed out that there were pagan religions that had women priestesses, and goddesses so the Gentiles were used to women in religious authority, as well as a female deity. Timothy was the pastor in Ephesus. This is where the pagan temple for Artemis (Diana) was located. There would have been no problem with women in religious authority there from a cultural view (Orr, n.d.).
The pastoral letter of 1st Timothy makes it abundantly clear that the prohibition to women having authority to teach men has nothing to do with the culture: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:12-14.)
This clearly shows that the prohibition had absolutely nothing to do with culture. Paul explained that by expressing the will of God and bringing the subject back to creation: the fall of Adam and Eve, and God’s design and order, not culture.
“The Bible allows for future revelation on these matters because the Holy Spirit is doing a new thing (Experience Driven, Post Cannon Revelation View)”. This is perhaps one of the most troubling arguments. If the Bible is not the final authority, then simply anything goes. As mentioned previously, the “United Church of Christ” hangs flags that say, “God is still speaking”. This is their view and includes the vilest new “God is speaking” positions like approval of abortion and the celebration of it, transgender pastors, etc. This “God is still speaking” view is in no way similar to the gifts of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit are tested by the Word of God. For example, if a person claims to have a word from the Lord that tells you to divorce your wife and visit prostitutes, we would obviously see that “word” has failed the test of scripture.
Also, the experience must not be the deciding factor. I have heard many make the argument that “God is blessing a woman pastor I know. Her church is growing.” If the size of her Church is the test for success, then what’s wrong with large anti-Trinitarian churches? If experience is the test, we must apply that to everything. Suppose you have a Christian man and woman who decide to live together outside of wedlock. Let’s say their argument is something like this: “My mother and father were never married, and they have a great relationship. My friend’s parents were married and they divorced. Since God obviously blessed my parent’s relationship, we can live together with God’s approval.” Would we say that is a legitimate argument to justify living together and having children out of wedlock? Some argue what’s wrong with a large number of churches accepting homosexuality? Some of those churches are well attended. The argument based on the experience of “human defined success” must never be our argument. Our foundation is the revealed will of God as found in the written Word of God. Proverbs 3: 5-6 has told us:
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding”. While experience helps us to learn and gain wisdom, it is never a substitute for the Bible. God still speaks to us and leads us by His spirit, but it is never contradictory of the eternal Word of God. So the experienced driven position is simply an unbiblical position on its face.
“The Bible has been misinterpreted for 2000 years, and we now are seeing the error of our previous interpretation” (Bias in our Interpretation View). This view is among the most arrogant. Those who say this have bought into the idea that for 2000 years, all the men of God and fine theologians were wrong, and that God is finally getting around to allowing us to understand that we are the enlightened ones. Finally, God has been able to take our blinders off and show us we have been anti-woman? We have missed what would have been the great contribution of women as elders for these 2000 years, and must definitively make a stand against this injustice? How incredibly arrogant this view is, particularly knowing the effect that feminism and progressivism have had on society and the Church. If we are going to have that position, where does it end? Rob Bell, modern heretic, is always saying “We must ask these questions”. He then goes on to ask questions like is the virgin birth really necessary? (Bell, 2012; pg 26). And is Hell really where unbelievers end up or does God win? (Bell, 2013). Maybe we should reinterpret the need for being born again, too? Or how about the Resurrection, is that really necessary? At this point, you may scoff and say, “Come on, you are an alarmist, that’s never going to happen!” If you scoff at my warnings, you have chosen to ignore what has become of so many former Bible respecting church denominations. I wonder if fifty years ago anyone could have believed that we would murder 58 million babies and have “Churches” praying for Planned Parenthood to be blessed by God??? Wake up from your slumber, pride, and arrogance. If you think your denomination is incapable of turning into an anti-Christ organization filled with doctrines of demons, you do not know the history of Israel or the Church.
The pastoral letter of 1st Timothy gives us very important teachings concerning elder qualifications. Let us look at some key verses:
1 Timothy: 1:1
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Savior, and Lord Jesus Christ which is our hope.”
Paul makes it clear that he is not speaking his opinion, and that he is an apostle as commanded and called by God himself. He has full authority to speak these commandments and instruction in this pastoral letter.
1 Timothy 1: 18-19:
“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that by them you mightiest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and good conscience, which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck.”
This statement increases the seriousness of what Paul is about to instruct to Pastor Timothy. He uses “warfare” to express that we are in a war of truth against the lies of the world.
1 Timothy 2: 7:
“Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the gentiles in faith and verity.”
Again, Paul speaks of his authority as an apostle and that he speaks the truth. He makes this point clearly to express that he can be trusted and has the authority to speak God’s will.
1 Timothy 2: 11-14:
“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
Paul says beyond a shadow of a doubt that he does not allow a woman to have authority or teach a Christian man the Word of God. He then explains why: because of God’s original design in the federal headship of Adam. There is not even a shadow of mention of culture being the reason. Authority is vested in the male in the home and in the church. This also has nothing to do with the world. So for example, there is no prohibition to a woman being a politician or business leader. The context is this pastoral letter in which Paul makes his own authority clear that he is speaking the Word of the Lord.
1 Timothy: 3:2
“A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach.”
Paul specifically says “the husband of one wife” not the wife of one husband. There can be no doubt he is talking about a man.
1 Timothy 3: 4-5
“One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how can he take care of the church of God?).”
We know who the head of the home is. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5). Paul, in no uncertain terms, tells us that the one who God placed as head of the home is also placed in the rule of the Church under God’s authority.
Paul makes it absolutely clear, again, that this has nothing to do with culture and that male authority transfers from the headship of the home to the headship of the church office of elder.
1 Timothy 3: 14-15:
“These things write I unto thee, hoping to come to you shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou oughtest to behave in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar of the truth.”
Paul shows a sense of urgency here. He wants Timothy to know what the “pillar of truth” should know and teach, and it cannot wait until Paul comes to them. He says this is how it must be in proper Church authority.
1 Timothy 4: 1
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”
It is directly after his instruction about proper authority and male headship in the church that he gives this sober warning. The doctrine of egalitarianism is one of the doctrines of devils and directly attacks the federal headship of Adam and the clear unambiguous male headship of the family and House of God.
One of the obscure arguments comes from Romans 16:7 which reads:
“Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”
The contention is that “Junia” was a woman apostle and therefore if a woman was an apostle, how could anyone say women are not to be elders? First, we cannot know for sure if this is a woman or not. The name could be a female or a male name depending on who used it and how it was used. A good example would be the modern name “Jamie”, which can be used for either a male or a female. Everything we can find on the name suggests it is either Greek or Latin and that it overlaps the two languages. Biblical scholars have not been able to come to any definitive evidence either way. Second, we see it says “of note among the apostles”, which means well known by the apostles. (Wallace & Burer, 2018). There is absolutely no way to definitively interpret this to mean Junia was an apostle. There is no extra-biblical mention of Junia from the first century that would in any way help answer this question either. However, we do have a quote from the early church historian Epiphanius (died A.D. 403) who explicitly uses a masculine pronoun of Junias and seems to have specific information about him when he says that "Junias, of whom Paul makes mention, became bishop of Apameia of Syria" (Index disciplulorum 125.19- 20; B777, 2017). Even with this quote, we must go to the text of God’s Word for the final say.
It is also important to mention that the word “apostle” simply means “one who is sent”. In Hebrews 3:1 Jesus is referred to as an apostle. Are we to take from this that Jesus was a mere apostle equal with the 12 Apostles? Certainly not. In this verse, the word apostle simply means “the sent one”. Context is everything. There is simply no way of knowing who this person was except what is provided in the verse in question. We are not sure this is a woman; we are not sure if this is saying apostle in the sense of apostolic authority or some other context. We don’t know if this person is being called an apostle, and it is more likely a simple acknowledgment of service known by the apostles. The woman apostle interpretation does not in any way harmonize with the rest of Paul’s teaching on male authority and the clear assertion by Paul that women are not to have elder and or teaching authority over Christian men.
Another obscure argument concerns Pricilla and Aquila: Pricilla and Aquila are known in the Bible as a wonderful Christian couple who fled Roman persecution mainly because Aquila was a Jew. The emperor, Claudius, expelled the Jews from Rome. They fled to Corinth where they were discipled by Paul. Paul took the couple with him to Ephesus. They had a house church (Paul who discipled them is the same Paul who forbids women to teach or to be elders in 1 Timothy 2:12). The contention is twofold concerning this couple and claims that Pricilla was an elder. The first point the advocates of this view make is that her name is mentioned first before her husband’s name. This claim is absurd on its face. This is what is called “grasping at straws”. There is absolutely no evidence that her name being mentioned first is tantamount to her being an elder; none. And in Acts 18, his name is mentioned first.
The second argument for Pricilla being an elder is found in Acts 18:24-26 which reads:
“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
The attempt here is to suggest that because both Aquila and his wife Pricilla “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” that it means that Pricilla was an elder teaching Apollos. To say this is a stretch is an understatement. Here is what happened according to Scripture: Apollos preached what he had known from the teaching of John the Baptist. He did not know the full understanding of the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection. Pricilla and Aquila simply sat down and explained what they had learned from Paul, the apostle. Are we to believe that sitting down helping a brother to understand the fulfillment of John the Baptists’ preaching found in the death and resurrection of Jesus should be interpreted as Pricilla being an elder and preacher to Christian men in the gathering of the saints? Why? What could possibly lead to that conclusion other than an eisegesis of interpreter intent? Are we to believe a couple sitting down with a man who needs some further understanding of the fullness of the gospel means that the couple are both elders? Brothers and sisters sit down in a casual setting and discuss the things of God all the time. That in no way suggests they are elders or that they necessarily have elder authority.
Another embarrassing argument comes from the accounts in the Bible of a woman, rather than a man, first seeing Jesus after the resurrection:
The Bible records in John 20: 2 that “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.” The argument is this: since it was a woman who reported that Jesus had risen from the dead, the woman automatically held elder authority. Now, this is possibly one of the worst arguments there is. It is void of reason and a basic understanding of hermeneutics. This is a clear example of an eisegesis. This sort of twisting of scripture, to reach a desired conclusion, should cause every bible believing Christian to be righteously outraged. It’s an argument based on nothing except emotional feminism. In reality, she ran and told the men in authority what she had seen and heard.
The Gifts Argument:
This argument is one I often hear. It goes like this: “I have gifts and God would not give me these gifts if he did not want me to use them”. This is really an argument that has a very simple answer. God gives women gifts, and he wants them to use them under the authority of His Word, and the elder authority He has placed them under. I thank God for the wonderful Christian women who have used their gifts to help me establish two churches. Women certainly may use their gifts in the biblical complementarian view. A woman can preach to other women, lead and be in authority over other women and children, counsel other women, etc. So the argument has nothing to do with their real desire. Their real desire is to be in authority over men. That is the real feminist issue. To be in authority over men is not from God. That is based on a worldly view and it is ungodly. It is not a matter of using gifts at all. Women can use all their gifts in ministry. The reason they are dissatisfied has nothing to do with using their gifts. It is about the feminist attitude that will simply not be satisfied until they rule over men.
The Deborah Argument:
Those who promote woman elders often point to Deborah in the Old Testament. The argument is simple: since Deborah was a judge and leader in the Old Testament, we should allow women to be elders in the New Testament. This is an argument that has no merit at all since the New Covenant supersedes the Old Covenant. That in no way suggests that the Old testament is irrelevant. It is instead to say that anything in the New Testament that is different from the Old Testament, The New testament prevails. If the New Testament teaches that the church is to be led by men, it matters not what the Old Testament says. However, let’s apply this argument to something I am sure New Testament women will not be willing to apply to this uninformed argument. Let’s go to the greatest leader in the history of Israel, King David. In him, in spite of his terrible sin, we see a man that God himself described as “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). If their interpretation is correct then, certainly, with God’s amazing endorsement, we can import David’s actions as King into the New Testament. So let’s see how the women who use the actions of Deborah as evidence that women should be elders in the New Testament feel about this. David had seven wives: Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacha, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah during his reign in Hebron as king of Judah. After David moved his capital to Jerusalem, he married Bathsheba. Let’s now ignore the plain text of the New Testament which reads:
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the office of an overseer, he desires a good work. An overseer then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, sober, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent, not greedy for money, but patient, not argumentative, not covetous” (1 Timothy 3:3).
If I use the same argument that the feminists use: the idea that Deborah was an Old Testament judge, and ignore the plain text of the New Testament that clearly says, “Husband of one wife”, then surely I can make the same argument that elders can have more than one wife. After all the Old Testament’s greatest king, a man after God’s own heart had seven wives. Are the ladies okay with their husbands or pastors having seven wives?
“Then Nathan told David, “You are this man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you as king over Israel and I rescued you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave to you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms, and I gave to you the house of Israel and Judah. If this were too little, I would have continued to do for you much more” (2 Samuel 12:7-8).
God himself says “I gave to you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms” so how is it not permissible for a New Testament elder to have multiple wives? Well, if you use the flawed hermeneutical interpretation of those who use Deborah as their argument for women elders, you would have to say that the plain text of the New Testament is superseded by the Old Testament. This, of course, is ridiculous and so is the idea that the fact that Deborah was a judge in the Old Testament somehow translates into New Testament elders. We could look at many examples from the Old Testament that are superseded by the New Testament. It should be clear that the use of Deborah as an argument for New Testament women elders is a very poor argument.
But you say, Jesus made it clear in Mark 10:6 that God’s original intention at creation was one man and one woman. I agree! Just like Paul made it clear that God’s original intention at creation was the male authority over female:
“But I allow not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. “For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:12-13).
Why are women not allowed to be over the man in this pastoral epistle? Because at creation “Adam was first formed”. He had federal headship because that is God’s design, and it has nothing to do with culture.
The truth is that these types of obscure arguments are made in the face of the plain text of scripture, which prohibits women from being elders. People who use these types of arguments are simply attempting to force a conclusion based on a bias desire to make the scripture support their view. Every basic expositor knows that one of the rules of hermeneutics is that the obscure never outweigh the plain, clear narrative. I have shown in this article the plain narrative and no matter how much pressure from the world, or the Jezebel spirit, which has infiltrated the church, we must hold to what the scripture clearly states. We must never look for a way out to ease our conscience that is in rebellion against the plain text.
This question, along with so many ungodly positions that are infiltrating the Church (mostly through seminaries) is more a question of the authority of scripture. It is plain to see that the powers of darkness always attack the Word of God. Both the deceived and the willing accomplices of darkness always use emotional arguments and question the morality of the Word of God. When that does not work, they simply find a way to reinterpret the things they do not like and insult those who hold to the plain text of scripture. We are called many pejoratives using the same tactics that the secular feminist progressives and proponents of sexual and gender confusion use: shaming tactics, ostracizing, the accusation of fear of change, etc. I, for one, will not be intimidated by their lies and mischaracterizations.
What’s the big deal and why take a stand on this controversy?
This is a question I have often been asked. Not only have I been asked this question by sincere Christians, but I have also been asked this by accusatory brethren. I have been maligned, yelled at, and accused of everything from hating women to making a big deal out of nothing. Let me explain why I stand so strongly against feminism in the Church. But first, I must define feminism. Feminism is not equal pay for equal work by equally qualified workers with equal experience. That may be the main issue feminists use to push their agenda, but it is far from what the spirit of feminism is seeking. Feminism is egalitarianism and often female superiority. The feminists use sayings like “toxic masculinity” and “smash the patriarchy” to describe their view of men and male authority. It goes far beyond equal pay to an idea that God’s order is itself evil. As a pastor for three decades, I have witnessed the results of such rebellion against God’s order: the family destroyed, children with no stability or order, women jaded and emotionally and physically abused; men having their children murdered through abortion and their live children taken from them and used as pawns in divorce disputes and bitterness. All of this is caused directly by the idea that men have no special call to be leaders who protect and provide both naturally and spiritually. As a Pastor and biblical counselor, I have wept with men, women, and children that have suffered from the effects of this anti-biblical ideology. I see its rotten fruit, so I fight against it with the truth. As strong as these reasons are, there is even a greater reason. The greatest reason to fight against this comes from my commitment to the Word of God. The Bible is the testimony of the gospel truth and its validation. The Lord Jesus and His apostles taught the gospel truth clearly. The work of Jesus on the Cross paid for our sins. The Resurrection of Jesus validated the work on the Cross proving it was sufficient. It is the testimony we Christians trust.
Why can’t we broaden our view of who receives eternal life? Why must we hold to the truth of how one becomes saved? After all, if we are going to exchange the plain text of the bible for egalitarianism, why can’t we do the same for salvation by being more inclusive? I mean do we really have to believe that God would send “good people” to Hell? That seems out of step with the idea that God is love, right? So let’s also redefine “love”. In fact, there is a push now for just that: what is referred to as “the wider grace” doctrine which expands the parameters for salvation and says that the loving God would not be so narrow. So let’s forget the idea that narrow is the way to salvation as the Bible declares. We can be so rigid and exclusive.
You might say that would never happen but it already has. And why should we hold to no sexual activity outside of marriage? After all, few churches are even willing to preach against it. I personally know of people who are not married and living together while being on worship teams. Then there is the question of the Church excluding “loving committed homosexual married couples who only wish to glorify God together in love”. Can’t we stop being so hateful and un-Christ like to them and accept them as members of His body?
There is a whole list of plain biblical positions that churches simply refuse to uphold because of fear that people will leave the church. I have even heard major “evangelical” leaders say, “It’s not our job to tell people how to live.” Really? We are not to preach the New Testament teaching on morality? We are now to skip those parts?
The idea that we allow the pressure of the fallen, sinful, depraved world to influence us to find a way to make the Bible support egalitarianism, is sickening to me. We have a culture that is falling apart at the seams. The last thing the world needs is for the church to become the world.
The integrity and veracity of the Bible must not be questioned by the Church due to the pressure of the world’s ideas of social justice. When we have plain text and understanding for most of two thousand years, we need not cave to demonic forces outside the Church or from within. Can anyone honestly say with a straight face that this move to ordain women, place them over Christian men in authority, and call them pastors, has nothing to do with the pressure of secular culture? Frankly, to believe that is simply absurd and nothing more than self-deception. Oh yes, I hear the spiritual platitudes that are used to make unbiblical positions seem so spiritual for the purpose of forsaking the plain texts of scripture when they are inconvenient to the fleshly desires of worldliness. The fact that large portions of Christianity in America already do not have a biblical world view (Group Barna, 2016) should preclude church leaders from helping to further erode biblical authority.
This is not the slippery slope argument. We are not on a slippery slope; we have already slipped and landed in a pit of relativism and the worship of feelings. Certainly, we will see continued erosion and acceptance of every unbiblical doctrine. The time is now to say NO MORE!
There is no prohibition given regarding a woman teaching other women, sharing the gospel with unbelievers, both male, and female (the context is in the kingdom of God, not sharing the gospel with the world). There is no prohibition on sitting around a table and discussing the Bible together with Christian men. Women may also teach children and work in a number of ways in the kingdom of God, but they may never violate the spiritual authority principle of Christian male headship no matter how they strain for obscure arguments and ignore the plain text. In 30 years of ministry, I can tell you, I could not have planted two successful Churches in New England without the help of wonderful Christian women (including my lovely wife). The unique qualities and gifting of these mighty women of God proved to be vital in the establishment of these Churches and continued spiritual growth. Having said that, the modern, so-called “progressive culture”, has no place in the Kingdom of God. It is earthly, sensual, and devilish. It does not descend from above. We know the truth, first, by the Word of God. After we consult the Word of God, we can also point to what Jesus said about fruit. Jesus said, “You can tell a tree by its fruit” (Luke 6: 44) and the fruit of progressivism is death, destruction, rebellion, gender confusion, sexual perversion, babies being murdered and broken families. We are in this world; we are not of this world. Its philosophies and doctrine must not have authority over our families or the House of God!
B777. (2017, July 25). Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. Retrieved from https://carm.org/junia-apostle
Bell, R. (2012). Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian faith (Page 26). New York: HarperCollins.
Bell, R. (2013). Love wins a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived. New York, NY: HarperLuxe, an imprint of HarperCollins.
Goldman, B., & DuBois, G. (n.d.). How men's and women's brains are different. Retrieved from https://stanmed.stanford.edu/2017spring/how-mens-and-womens-brains-are-different.html
Group Barna. (2016). The State of the Church 2016. Retrieved from https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/
Imbornoni, A. (n.d.). Timeline: U.S. Women's Rights, 1848 - 1920. Retrieved from https://www.infoplease.com/spot/womens-rights-movement-us
Orr, J. (n.d.). Diana; Artemis - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/diana-artemis.html
Wallace, D. A., & Burer, M. (2018). Exploring the True Identity of Junia: Prominent among the Apostles. Journal of Early Christian History,8(3), 96-106. doi:10.1080/2222582x.2019.1585894
Rev. David M. Berman B.A., Th.M., and Th.D.
Reverend Berman has been in ordained ministry since 1991. He is the founding and Senior Pastor of the Christian Life Fellowship Church in Swanzey, NH, and is ordained in the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church (C&MA). Pastor Berman has extensive ministry experience including church planting, training theological students, mentoring and consulting. He has been heard by millions as both an expert guest, as well as a guest host on numerous radio and television shows. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Brenda, and together they have five children and seven grandchildren (so far). You may contact him at email@example.com or by phone at 603-520-6683.
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