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The Role of Women in the Church: Two Views

posted Nov 18, 2014, 10:54 AM by First Baptist

Part 4


In Part 4 of this series, I offer some conclusions. However, before doing so, I note the following:


1.      There can be strong feelings on both sides.

2.      Both views are reasonable from a biblical perspective.

3.      One side (complementarianism) is definitely more counter-cultural (i.e., more out of step with the prevailing American culture).

4.      Despite the difficulties, a choice must be made because a church either will or will not allow women to serve in certain positions.




After studying the biblical material, not exhaustively but thoroughly, I’ve concluded that the complementarian position is much stronger biblically (i.e., has considerably more biblical support).  The proponents of egalitarianism appear to offer little in the way of affirmative evidence for their position; instead, the main thrust of their argument is to attempt to weaken or undermine the complementarian view. (To use a sports metaphor, they’re playing defense.)


Here (in my opinion) are the strongest biblical arguments in favor of the complementarian view:


  1. The “equal in value but subordinate” idea that is central to complementarianism is analogous to the Trinity, where Jesus is equal to but subordinate to the Father. Given that a hierarchy exists in the Trinity, it is difficult to see how a hierarchy per se can be sinful, as egalitarians argue. (It can certainly be practiced in a sinful way.)  The egalitarian authorities I consulted all fail to address this.


  1. Jesus didn’t choose any women as His disciples. The argument that He didn’t want to shake up the status quo seems lacking considering that “shaking up the status quo” is what got Him killed. Jesus definitely enhanced the role of women, but seemed to stop short of granting them spiritual authority over men.


  1. It seems pretty clear that Adam had leadership responsibility vis-à-vis Eve and that this responsibility existed prior to the Fall. It’s interesting that immediately after sinning in the Garden, God called out to Adam, even though Eve had sinned first.


  1. There is an explicit prohibition in the New Testament concerning women being in spiritual authority over men (I Timothy 2:12). The response that the prohibition was limited to Timothy’s church fails many of the classic hermeneutical tests* for making that case. Paul ties this prohibition to the fact Adam was created first, thus appearing to make the prohibition universal.


5.      Ephesians 5:23 says “the husband is the head [Greek: kephale] of the wife as Christ is the head [kephale] of the church.” It seems nonsensical to argue, as egalitarians do, that Jesus’ “headship” over the church has nothing to do with Him being in authority over the church.


Despite having come to this conclusion, I do not consider complementarianism a core belief of Christianity. This means I do not consider a female-led church to be aberrant or heretical, although given my understanding of Scripture, I wouldn’t choose to be a member of such a church.


As more women become pastors, it will be interesting to see how they fare (and how their churches fare). Right now, it’s too early to make a judgment because the vast majority of female pastors, at least in the U.S., are serving in older, declining churches in the older, declining mainline denominations. God bless them for their willingness to serve in these churches, often at substandard wages. Women often step in when & where men fail to do so.


Finally, I want to remain open to further growth & understanding on this issue. As a pastor, I need to be mindful of the concerns, gifts and aspirations of both men & women, while also practicing true servant leadership in the home and church.



Pastor Dan


*Hermeneutics is the art & science of biblical interpretation. Several “tests” have been developed to determine whether a biblical command is intended only for a specific group or occasion, or whether it’s intended for all Christians for all time.



If interested in further study:


The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood – an organization dedicated to the complementarian position.


Christians for Biblical Equality – an organization dedicated to the egalitarian position.