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Should Women Be Permitted to Teach Men? 4 Typical Answers

I realize that I run the risk of severely caricaturing viewpoints when writing posts like this. I assure the reader in advance that this is not my goal. So, if things seem a little oversimplified or caricatured, I invite you to jump in and add whatever clarification you feel is helpful.

Having provided my disclaimer—

Have you ever been in a “should women be allowed to preach, teach men, be the pastor of a church?” conversation?

Yes. Yes you have. We all have. And we will continue to be in those conversations until Jesus comes again.

Even here at ThinkTheology there has been quite a bit of work done to encourage conversation about this never-ending question.

As with many theological ideas, we tend to want to answer either “yes” or “no” to the questions rather than getting clarification, discussing caveats and nuances, or asking if there are more than two (possibly false) choices. For example, I propose that there are at least four views floating around—and you are free to add a fifth, sixth or seventh for our dialogue. You’re also free to tweak my description of the four views I’m summarizing here.

What you will see as you read is that there is not one single Bible verse quoted in this post, and I want the reader to know that I have done this on purpose. For the sake of wanting more theological dialogue here, it is important for me not to load up any particular position with a bunch of proof-texts (that would actually be easy to do). If dialogue ensues about the various positions in the comment threads, my guess is that Bible verses (and what they do or do not mean) will abound, and then we can start thinking theologically, biblically and practically together.

Here are the four views I’ve heard in most discussions about the question:

1. Chauvinism

A view that excludes women from most everything in public gatherings, believing that they are to keep silent in church and are especially never to serve as the lead pastor of a church or to teach men in a public church meeting—precisely because of their gender. To allow this, in the chauvinistic view, is tantamount to rebellion against God and His authoritative word.

Proponents of this view might say something like, “God calls men to be the leaders in His church.”

Those who hold the Chauvinism perspective are, in their own defense of their position, simply using what the Bible teaches in order to arrive at this perspective. They do not believe that the view is in any way based on their baggage, their prejudice or their preference. It’s just the word of God.

2. Complementarianism

A view that assigns roles and responsibilities to men and women on the basis of their gender rather than their particular capacities (in other words, in this model a male who is a bad Bible teacher would have to be the only one allowed to teach if it was him and a room full of women, and a good female Bible teacher would not be allowed to teach men ever, even if she was more capable than all the men—because she has female anatomy, but could teach women and children). 

Proponents of this view might say something like, “God values men and women just the same, but limits them to specific functions based on their gender.”

Those who hold the Complementarian perspective are, in their own defense of their position, simply using what the Bible teaches in order to arrive at this perspective. They do not believe that the view is in any way based on their baggage, their prejudice,or their preference. It’s just the word of God.

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Kenny Burchard (M.A. New Testament), his wife MaryJo and their son Victor live in Virginia Beach, VA. Before his family's journey of reconciliation with the Catholic Church Kenny served for 20 years as an ordained Protestant pastor, worship leader, church planter, and Bible teacher. Kenny is the host and curator of the Metastory.org podcast and blog, and is a regular blogger at ThinkTheology.org. You can follow him on twitter @kennyburchard.