A slight controversy has arisen over the attendance of women in the Manila Conference on Theology with Dr. Joel Beeke. The organizers have said that the conference is intended as a pastors’ conference, but wives of ministers who are attending may also come and benefit.
Some would probably wonder: If it’s a pastors’ conference, why is it for men only? Aren’t there pastors who are women? This is another area, in addition to worship, that the Reformed is distinct from mainstream evangelicals. To be sure, there are many churches, not only Reformed, that do not ordain women to the offices of the church–pastors, elders, deacons.
The Reformed argue from a couple of Bible texts. The first is, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Tim 2:11-12). And the second is from 1 Corinthians 14:33b-34, “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. “
But many would vehemently argue from the perspective of modern egalitarianism that men and women are equal in the sight of God. The Reformed disagree.
Many others argue that prohibiting women from holding the three offices in the church is a holdover from Paul’s chauvinistic time and culture. We disagree.
And still many others accuse the Reformed of denigrating and devaluing women with this prohibition. Again, we disagree.
This controversy has many intertwining threads, and even if I do not want to be simplistic, here is my short take on it. I will let other more scholarly papers listed below argue for me.
Those who make the first and last arguments cite Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Isn’t Paul teaching egalitarianism in roles and relations here? No, because in the context of Galatians 3, Paul is explaining the believer’s movement from slavery under the Law to freedom under the grace of Christ.Â Believers coming from all kinds of backgrounds are all equally children of God in Christ, a diversity in unity, and unity within diversity. This is why he adds later, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal 3:29). Paul was not taking about roles, but about all Christians equally as heirs of the promises God made to Abraham.
In the second place, 2 Timothy 2:11-12 certainly does not make Paul a first-century male chauvinist bigot in a male-dominated Greco-Roman-Jewish culture. He affirms that all men and women are created in the image of God (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). He greets women as fellow laborers in the gospel (Phil 4:2 ff; Rom 16:1-15). What most egalitarians miss are the verses that follow:
For Adam was formed first, then Eve;Â and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor (1 Tim 2:13-14).
Paul was not making a command without any reason, so he follows his statement as to why, in the church, women should not teach or exercise authority over men with a “For…” Why? Because God ordered man-woman roles all the way back to creation! First, men have priority over women because Adam was created first before Eve, who was created as a “help-meet.” Second, it was Eve who sinned first.
Therefore, the priority and authority of men over women is not a matter of time and culture, but it is a foundational creation mandate that transcends all time, place and culture, just as marriage between a man and a woman (Gen 2:24), work and human dominion over creation (Gen 1:28), and perfect obedience to God’s law (Gen 2:16-17). Abuse of these creation ordinances, especially by men, does not of necessity make them wrong or obsolete.
To be sure, Paul also teaches that women have a most significant role in the church: that of teaching other women and children in the church and in the home (Tit 2:3-5). Why is this so important? Paul says, “that the word of God may not be reviled.” If there is no order in the church because the women and the children are raised without the knowledge of God and his Word, the church will be made up of ungodly men and women, eventually fall away, and so disgrace God’s name and holy Word.
Lastly, let this be a warning to churches that are in rebellion against this command. The slippery slope can be easily seen in these churches. They start with ordaining women deacons as “deaconnesses.” Since there are deaconnesses, why don’t we have women elders? Eventually, women pastors follow suit, as in many liberal churches like the PCUSA.
Who else is there to ordain? In the liberal mainliners, the slippery slope has become the bottomless pit. How about practicing homosexuals? Paul says this is the next logical step in the hardening (“giving up”) of the unrighteous to “dishonorable passions” (Rom 1:24-27). After these, who else is there in the egalitarian world to ordain in “Christian” churches? Unitarians? Masons? New Agers? A perfect fit for our present effeminate, pluralistic, amoral generation.
Below are two short but excellent articles: