Feminism and Exegetical Mayhem
by John MacArthur
No other passage of Scripture has been subjected to more scrutiny in the feminist debate over the role of women in the church than 1 Timothy 2:9–15. Entire books have been devoted to refuting the historical and traditional interpretations of this important passage (e.g., R.C. Kroeger and C.C. Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992]).
To capsulize the variety of interpretations from evangelical and charismatic feminists, J. David Pawson offers this revealing paraphrase in his book Leadership Is Male:
Verse 11: You must teach women so that they can become teachers themselves; as with men under instructions, the women also must not interrupt with aggressive opinions of their own.
Verse 12: Personally, I don’t make a practice of letting women teach because hitherto they have not had the educational opportunity to study the Scriptures; asserting their somewhat ignorant ideas in an authoritarian manner could be seen as putting down their husbands.
Verse 13: Nevertheless, when Adam was created, he was immediately given a colleague to complete and complement him as a coequal, sharing fully his dual role of ruling the world and teaching others the word of God.
Verse 14: Satan was able to deceive Eve only because she was not present when God spoke to Adam and she had only a secondhand report of what was said; Adam, on the other hand, knew better and his sin, unlike hers, was inexcusable.
Verse 15: This is why God spoke so tenderly to Eve, promising to vindicate her innocence and save her from undeserved dishonor and shame by choosing a woman to bear that special Child who would defeat Satan and thus save all women of faith, love, holiness, and good sense.  Leadership Is Male [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990], 82-83
Others, such as Gretchen Gaebelein Hull, don’t want to even deal with passages like this one or 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 and 14:33–35 because they are too “hard” to interpret.  Equal to Serve: Women and Men in the Church and Home [Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1987], 183-89 Hull even added Ephesians 5:22–24, Colossians 3:18, and 1 Peter 3:1–6 to the list. In her attempt to prove that the Bible does not teach male headship, she was forced to dispose of those passages that indeed teach male headship. Hull concluded, “Those of us who respect God’s Word cannot force meaning where meaning is unclear. Therefore we may legitimately put these Scripture portions aside for the very reason that they remain ‘hard passages’—hard exegetically, hard hermeneutically, and hard theologically”.  Ibid p. 198
If all theologians were to follow that principle of interpretation, Satan wouldn’t need to attack the truthfulness of Scripture; he would only have to cause enough confusion over the “hard passages” for scholars to ignore them. John W. Robbins explains the tragedy of such an approach:
The demand for the ordination of women, as rebellious as it is in itself, is a symptom of a much more serious malady. The ordination of women might disfigure the church, but the disease of which it is a symptom will kill her unless it is quickly diagnosed and treated. That disease . . . is the rejection of Biblical inerrancy.
[One seminary professor] entertains the possibility that Paul contradicts himself. [Another] asserts that the Bible contains “antinomies,” a polite word for contradictions. [Yet another] picks and chooses which of the Biblical requirements for elders he is going to tolerate. . . . If the rest of Scripture, the passages concerning the Trinity, Christ’s deity, or justification through faith alone, for example, were subjected to the same exegetical mayhem as wreaked on 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, there would be no truth at all in our theology.  Scripture Twisting in the Seminaries, Part One: Feminism, “The Most Serious Error” [Jefferson, MD: The Trinity Foundation, 1985], 51, 53
Some evangelical feminists assert that Paul was simply dealing with a cultural issue and never intended his instruction to go beyond that. Among those in that camp are R.C. Kroeger and C.C. Kroeger. Peter Jones commented on their book I Suffer Not a Woman:
The great insights of this study concerning Paul’s biblical answer to Gnostic distortions are vitiated by the authors’ rejection of this answer as applying only to an extreme, first-century situation. The authors fail to see that this same Gnostic heresy is back with a vengeance via the New Age teaching seeping into the contemporary church and society, and that Paul’s teaching has perhaps never been more relevant than now.  The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back [Phillipsburg, NJ: P. and R., 1992], 41
Scripture is timeless, thus it is contemporary. Just as God never changes, neither does His Word. It is as active and living today as it was two thousand years ago (Hebrews 4:12). I believe no passage is more affirming of women and more necessary for them to understand—in spite of what feminists claim—than 1 Timothy 2:9–15. As you move through Paul’s words to Timothy regarding the women in the Ephesian assembly, you’ll find that his commands and restrictions are means of great blessing, not declarations of second-class status.
That’s where we’ll pick it up next time.
(Adapted from Divine Design.)
#1 Posted by
Franklyn Beasley | Monday, August 26, 2013at
No matter how many times I teach, explain, and show these Scripture verses to an all-women Bible study group, the sin of feminism still lurks around. They just can't except that blessing of these verses. They are living in the past of THEIR lives and not of Christian women. (i.e. living in/from abuse, women news, women empowering groups, etc). They especially get upset when a man doesn't take the role of headship, both in home and in church. And on top of that, the try to demonstrate the women in the Bible, outside of Eve, that led in certain tasks. Of course, I explained all this and beyond, but again, the sin of radical feminism (even with the sin of male chauvnism explained) is strong in them and they just won't let it go. This is why the NT is a blessing because its whole foundation is on the building blocks of Jesus teaching about two things important to all of us...GRACE and FORGIVENESS. Paul made it clear the calling of the Christian life in Galatians 2:20 for all of us to be; a surrendering of our thoughts, especially if its from the world's point of view, and the grace Christ gave us to choose the faith in Him and bathe in the vastness of His love and salvation with Him.
#2 Posted by
Felicia Murphy | Monday, August 26, 2013at
These are the same "scholars" who deny a 24 hour, six day creation, deny election and predestination and don't realize what they really are-unbelievers! Sad!
#5 Posted by
Russell Aubrey | Monday, August 26, 2013at
I just left a church - only this week - over this issue and the error it is making in the speaking of tongues. It was difficult to do because the congregation is full of Christ-loving people. The speaking in tongues error in not frequent, but exists, nonetheless.
The specific woman involved is a fairly good friend, knowledgeable in Scripture, and as in love with Christ and God and the Holy Spirit as anyone I have ever known. In her case, I really think that her error is more motivated by her enthusiasm to share her love for Christ, and not so much by wanting to usurp authority over men. And I wonder if this might not be more common than many of us think it is. I've always thought that some women Christians (all people, actually) have a natural tendency to what to be influential, and in their zeal to reach out to other Christians, and be a positive force in their lives, will then use this reasoning to justify teaching behind the pulpit, as I view it in her case. Of course, it's still error, despite the zeal, but as I said, I think enthusiasm sometimes takes over. I almost certain this is the case with her.
I also wonder what others think about women like Joyce Meyer, who despite her often bad theology, at least doesn't - as far as I know - head a church. John, Phil, other commenters, what do you think about how Meyer goes about her business? Is it OK, because she isn't in an actual church? I mean, if one can get past her lack of good theology, and just view the process she uses.
#6 Posted by
Nicola Steenkamp | Tuesday, August 27, 2013at
Thank you for this I've heard both sides for a number of years and still at a point of confusion. So basically are you saying women are not to be a head of a church. Can they still teach under the authority of a male head as many do in Sunday schools or may take a sermon from time to time?
#7 Posted by
Franklyn Beasley | Tuesday, August 27, 2013at
Have a question for everyone:
I have just been asked to consult on a website design for a neighboring church. But the pastor is a woman.
Should a person help out a church that the pastor is a woman, knowing the Scriptures commands, via Paul, about women pastors/preachers?
Thank you and God bless.
#8 Posted by
Moroti Olowonyo | Tuesday, August 27, 2013at
Comment deleted by user.
#9 Posted by
Nicola Steenkamp | Tuesday, August 27, 2013at
@ Franklyn. Hello brother, question... if you are in business like myself how would you decipher who to sell to or purchase supplies from i.e. do you do websites for non believers in their variety or only certain believers living a certain way and similarly the same when purchasing? This was a question raised to me in a similar conversation over a different piece of scripture! This answer for me certainly put things into perspective this side of the screen :) blessings
#10 Posted by
Franklyn Beasley | Tuesday, August 27, 2013at
@ Nicola. Thank you for the reply. Well, if I knew of the "clients" intentions, then I wouldn't do the job (i.e. homosexual, abortion, criminal activities, etc). Even in law, if you know about questionable activities, you are suppose to report it.
For example, a large hardware store supports homosexual organizations. So, I stop shopping there. Taxes for abortion, signed a petition for my taxes NOT to support abortion, etc.
If I knew of a supplier/vendor/client activities that's against Scripture, well I will just have to lose the contract/client.
So, if a church, led by a woman, is in need of a website (or any form of support) and the Bible is clear on women pastors/preachers, well the Bible seems, at least to me, to be clear and not support her/the church, but I would like more clarification on it. (emailed a ton of pastors about this, or what I call, my "wise counsel").
So, the business questions you used as examples is great for business and easy to answer (as I just answered above), but when it comes to the church, I'm more...cautious...and more protective...of it than anything. I wouldn't mind losing a client, but I do mind it when I done any business with the church, especially by me being a teacher of His word. (Layman, lol ).
#11 Posted by
Michael Kennedy | Tuesday, August 27, 2013at
Mr. Beasley; If she's going to be a pastor of a church, which of course we know she should never be, even if SHE thinks she is, the answer is still........ NO!
Now, if she is just a woman sitting under a male pastor and teaching the girls or little children what the Word of God says....then if she is inquiring about a website for the church she goes to, then I think it would be okay. God bless.
#12 Posted by
Nicola Steenkamp | Tuesday, August 27, 2013at
@ Franklin, thanks for the response! If I may, use websites as an example: from the software used to construct websites, to web hosting, domains, internet providers, phone services, electricity needed to run these things right down to the computer & every bit of its components we use, all have at some point been through the hands of believers, believers in error and non believers of all kinds, race, diversities, every ungodly thinkable type of person. Would you agree then that the same applies to everything you see or touch in this world. Scripture could not be applied in such a away to judge whether we deal or not with for e.g. in your case doing a website for a sister in Christ who is under the grace of God based on 1 Timothy 2:9–15. With much respect to you and the position you hold kindly I say we should also be careful not to condemn a fellow Christian with legalism. many blessings :)
#13 Posted by
Brad Kennedy | Tuesday, August 27, 2013at
Franklyn (7), is it possible to design the website with an intent to communicate "Neighborhood Church in Need of Pastor?" Otherwise, you may find yourself participating in promoting a false church, and far worse, sinning against the LORD.
#17 Posted by
Franklyn Beasley | Wednesday, August 28, 2013at
@Nicola. Thanks again for your response. I just talked about this thread yesterday during Bible study where I teach at. I explain to them the difference between legality and commands. 1 Timothy 2:9-15 is a command. Legality is believing in an event/suggestion/command that produces salvation. Helping a woman pastor with her needs to spread the information about her church is against the clear teaching of 1 Timothy 2.
So, it's not legality, its a command. And if God says it, that's game. Its over, the discussion has been resolved and there is no way of you changing God's mind on the matter.
So, I'm fully aware of legalities (one of many things I teach about) but, its not even about legalities when a sister in Christ goes clearly against the teachings of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Even in the Trinity, there is a hierarchy (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Since God created the church, He has an order on how it is to run/serve (otherwise, Jesus flipping tables over and driving people out was wrong on all fronts).
And in 1 Timothy 2:9-15, God had this planned out before (v.13) AND after (v.14) the Fall. There is order in everything God does and if a woman "feels" she is called to be a pastor, it is only on the basis of feminism, mild or in heavy thought.
Therefore, no, I will not help her in the furthering of her ministry because of that. Our "jobs" as Christians is "run the course" the best we can with the Holy Spirit as our example; that is not legality, that's protection and faith in/from God.
#18 Posted by
Franklyn Beasley | Wednesday, August 28, 2013at
@Brad. That sounds like a great idea, but even in that, it will still be deceitful because I will be manipulating someone's instructions on what they want. Gotta be a good steward, no matter the task, lol.
#20 Posted by
P B | Tuesday, September 03, 2013at
This is a subject that drives me nuts, right along with the subject of church discipline. Christianity today is beginning to remind me of a household in total chaos, with permissive parents at the helm smoking pot and singing " Let it be"! I see so many pastors who have become for lack of a better word, effeminate, because they've been brainwashed and intimidated into leaving off the parts of God's word that don't fit the culture, for fear that they will be seen as NOT being loving, soft and accepting or as having injured someone's self esteem. So they tolerate sin and rebellion and yield to feminism and try to hide from themselves the truth of how compromised a gospel they are preaching. Yet these same often speak of praying for revival to come. Revival requires repentance of idolatry and compromise and is often preceded by the same. I know personally of professing Christian women in churches whose pastors are threatened by them and walk on eggshells around them, and will NOT preach what the bible says because this woman and her friends would be up in arms if denied a leadership role and walk out of the church. These men would rather compromise the gospel to keep their numbers up than risk losing people because of this. How disgusting and what a shame. A false gospel is not the gospel and has no power to save or change, only to anaesthetize one into feeling safe and secure when he is not. I do not regard the teaching on God's authority structure to be a debatable issue when scripture is clear in black and white. I regard it as one of the support pillars that keeps the church in a state of integrity, purity and strength. Take it away and you have a worldly gospel. I've noticed that Christians, including biblical scholars and pastors play the " we don't know " game, when it comes to a so called difficult passage. They pretend that its a difficult passage when the meaning is quite clear. The passage is not difficult because its impossible to understand and translate but because we DON'T LIKE what it says, what it means and what that implies about us and where we are really at in terms of our walk with God. It cuts across our flesh and rebellion.
The church is longing for real MEN, men of God who are not emasculated and effeminized and not afraid to take an uncompromising stand and teach what God's word says without bowing to the approval of man. May God release such men, especially here into the Canadian prairies and into the church at large, quickly while there is still time to strengthen what remains.
#21 Posted by
Franklyn Beasley | Tuesday, September 03, 2013at
@P.B. There's nothing I can add to that. You nailed it, my friend.
Peace and God bless.
#22 Posted by
Shalom Patole | Thursday, September 12, 2013at
Dear Sir (Dr. John),
I agree with everything that you say. Also about the Bible not being limited by time etc. Then, why is it that we dont follow Paul's advice about women covering their heads during church? Should that command also not be followed? Especially as that also has theological implications in terms of headship? Why are modern day Reformed evangelicals saying that that command was limited by time and culture if the theology behind it is timeless and eternal?
#23 Posted by
Franklyn Beasley | Thursday, September 12, 2013at
@Shalom. Excellent question. However, you answered your own question. "...follow Paul's ADVICE"...not command. There is plenty of evidence that shows that it was a cultural situation and traditional. The Bible shows that culture and traditions are fine, as long as it is not a deterrent to God's word.
For example, a church picnic. Its OK to do it, as long as it doesn't...let's say...replace the worship service or something. There is freedom and liberty in Christ...even in His commands. (Philippians 4:8)
So, with the case of Paul and the head covering, (and deep study of the times at that church/city - question I asked before as well), they were thinking it was needed for proper worship and it wasn't, it was just a culture thing.
I know you are awaiting MacArthur's answer, but hope that holds you until he answers you back. (And hopefully confirms my response, lol.)
Thanks and God bless.
#24 Posted by
Jeremiah Johnson | Thursday, September 12, 2013at
The immediate context of Paul's instruction on head coverings for women (found in 1 Corinthians 11) is submission. While the symbol of that submission--head coverings--doesn't carry the same meaning in our Western culture, the principle is still very much in place. A good parallel today might be a wife who refused to take her husband's last name--in the same way, a married woman in New Testament Israel who didn't cover her head was asserting independence from her husband. While the cultural tradition of head coverings is mostly outdated, Paul's principle of submission still applies.