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Dangerous first step

"Dangerous first step" Continued...

Issue: "Darfur," Nov. 25, 2006

Surprisingly, some evangelicals say that a pastor can override the force of these verses by giving a woman permission to preach "under his authority." But if the Bible says that a woman should not "teach or . . . exercise authority over a man" (in the setting of the assembled church), then how can a pastor give a woman permission to disobey that Scripture? Would we say that pastors can give us authority to disobey the command "you shall not steal" as well? This is just another way of undermining the authority of Scripture.

WORLD: What should be the evangelical response to the teaching in these verses?

GRUDEM: Obey them. 1 Timothy 2:12, speaking about the Bible teaching that is done in an assembled group of Christians, specifies that men are to do the Bible teaching: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man." How hard is that to understand?

WORLD: But we both know of mature, godly women who seem to have preaching and teaching ability-and some may even feel "called" to ministry. On what basis do you turn them down?

GRUDEM: The key here is to decide that experience is not going to trump Scripture. Our task is to obey what God's Word says, and subjective experiences of "calling" or "blessing" should not lead us to disobey it. Putting experience above Scripture is a direct path to theological liberalism. On the other hand, many women have outstanding knowledge of the Bible and outstanding Bible teaching gifts. I would encourage them to use these gifts to teach women's groups, both small and large (as many godly women do).

WORLD: Maybe Paul's teaching that women should not speak in church came because uneducated women in Corinth or Ephesus were being disruptive or teaching false doctrines . . .

GRUDEM: Another way to undermine the authority of Scripture is to invent a unique historical situation (such as uneducated women in the ancient world) and then to say that we are not in the same situation so we do not have to obey this passage of Scripture. But this historical situation in fact has been constructed out of the interpreter's own imagination, for the Bible doesn't say anything about women being uneducated in the first century. In fact, many women followed Jesus and learned from Him, and women like Pricilla (Acts 18:26) were apparently very knowledgeable about the Bible. In 1 Timothy 2:11 Paul commands, "Let a woman learn quietly," which means that women as well as men learned the Bible.

In addition, I point out in my book how archeological research demonstrates evidence of at least 48 women who served as the "superintendent of schools" (Greek, gymnasiarchos) in various cities in Asia Minor, the area to which Paul wrote 1 Timothy. In many cities women were leading the educational system.

The other idea, that women were being disruptive or teaching false doctrine, also won't hold up to historical investigation-it's just a product of the interpreter's imagination, trying to construct a situation that is unlike ours today, and thereby get a reason for disobeying Scripture. When there is no hard evidence to prove these imaginative speculations, should we disobey Scripture on the basis of something that is speculative and unproven, instead of simply obeying the Word of God which is specific, clear, and always true?

WORLD: What troubling further steps occur once churches succumb to feminist pressures?

GRUDEM: There is a slippery slope that is predictable and it has happened in denomination after denomination, as I outline in this book: (1) abandoning Biblical inerrancy, (2) endorsing the ordination of women as pastors, (3) abandoning the Bible's teaching on male headship in marriage, (4) excluding clergy who are opposed to women's ordination, (5) approving homosexual conduct as morally valid in some cases, (6) approving homosexual ordination, (7) ordaining homosexuals to high leadership positions in the denomination. (Only the Episcopal Church has gone as far as step seven, but others are moving in that direction.)

WORLD: How has evangelical feminism contributed to the battles of the past decade over Bible translation?

GRUDEM: My research shows that one early mark of a church moving to endorse evangelical feminism is to deny that there are any uniquely masculine characteristics (apart from obvious physical differences). Part of that trend has been seen in the strong push for "gender-neutral language" in our culture. Bibles such as the TNIV, the New Living Translation, and the New Revised Standard Version remove thousands of examples of the male-oriented words man, father, son, brother, and he/him/his, and change them to the gender-neutral terms person, parent, child, friend, and they, in places where the original Hebrew or Greek referred to a specific male human being or used a masculine singular pronoun (equivalent to English he) to state a general truth.

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