Reviews of “Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry” at TGC

Reviews of “Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry” at TGC January 31, 2013

Over TGC, John Starke reviews the books on gender and ministry by Keller, Bird, and Dickson.

It’s a critical but non-polemical review, though I do have a few points of contention against Starke’s criticism:

  • The fact that I use language like “infer” or “speculate” at times, while it might diminish my rhetorical appeal, was done out of pure honesty. Some arguments are inferential or lead us to imagine a certain situation that the texts either assumes or creates. Given that Paul’s letters are like reading one side of a conversation about a situation to which we know almost nothing, we have to infer and speculate to some degree in order to join the dots together. The real question is the plausibility and explanatory power of the arguments I muster as a whole and how it explains the phenomenon of the texts when situated in their context.
  • I am aware of the works that Starke mentions like Schreiner and Kostenberger, in fact, I put them in the bibliography. The problem is that it is impossible to mention and interact with the huge morass of secondary literature with Paul and gender in a short booklet.
  • Also, on why women apostles but not women bishops, that is because I think Paul’s use of “apostle” in Rom 16:7 means something akin to “missionary.”
  • Also, I very, very, very, very explicitly urge caution against relying on reconstructions of a hypothetical feminist cult in Ephesus as a background to 1 Timothy 2. Instead, I try to reconstruct details of the Ephesian heresy from the text of the letter itself, precisely because I am aware of the danger of reconstructions without historical evidence projected onto the text. So Starke’s appeal to S.B. Baugh’s article as an antidote to my appeal to postulation of a hypothetical heresy left me baffled. Strangely, Starke implies that it is illegitimate to appeal to the social, cultural, or religious environment of Corinth to account for anything that Paul says about women in even in 1 Corinthians. If I’m reading Starke correctly, he is not only denying the relevance of background, but insinuating that it’s wrong to attribute anything that Paul says about women to the social, cultural, and historical context of Corinth and Ephesus. That is more mystifying than the mystery cults! Anyone who knows what the names “Serapion” and “Dionysius” meant in Corinth will find Starke’s views hard to take seriously. I think a study tour with Bruce Winter through Corinth and Ephesus might be a good idea here! Either that, or read John Dickson’s TGC piece on the importance of historical background for biblical interpretation. I can appreciate Starke’s concern about the perils of background and parallel-0-mania, but his criticism demands that we deny that Paul’s letters were in any way contingent on their context or circumstances.
  • While Starke nips at the heels of several of my arguments, and yes, some parts are more persuasive than others, he avoids the more compelling elements: women could prophesy, there was a woman apostle, there were women household leaders, and the problem of complementarians having to believe that women are really saved by believing in patriarch (whose patriarchy at that?) as their take on 1 Tim 2:14!


"How did this book reinforce or challenge your theology?"

Reading Christian Theology in the Protestant ..."
"I'm not familiar with David nor have I read his book though I hope to ..."

A War of Loves – The ..."
"My wife and I attended our first Holy Week vigil at a local Roman Catholic ..."

Flemming Rutlege on Good Friday
"The Holy Gospels of Our Lord are 'testaments' to Him, to His teachings, to how ..."

Why Were the Gospels Written?

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Scot McKnight

    Mike, I’ve watched this debate in the last decade or so and I’m much closer to you than to the typical view at TGC, but it isn’t quite right to nip at the heels and avoid the solid, undebatable stuff about women prophets and think the jig is up. Thanks for your approach here …

  • David

    Interesting how Starke writes only 5 brief paragraphs of interaction with Keller’s work, but devotes pages and pages of critique of the positions held by you and Dickson. This review doesn’t seem to be very even-handed.

    • Well, that’s probably because he mostly agrees with Kathy Keller’s viewpoint. It kind of makes sense in a critical review. If you don’t feel you have much to criticize, then you won’t.

  • Mat

    I’m sorry I haven’t read your piece Michael (so I can’t comment), but I thought Starke’s review of Dickson (which I read) wasn’t fair. I posted the following below the TGC review:

    If I read Dickson right, teaching CAN (and indeed must) encompass some
    manner of explaining and applying the scriptures as it is done in the
    service of passing on the authoritative apostolic teaching. If that is
    true, Jesus’ teaching on the Road to Emmaus need not deviate from this
    understanding of teaching. Indeed, in order to pass along apostolic
    teaching, explanation and application in the early Christian community
    would be REQUIRED. The reviewer doesn’t engage with the argument Dickson
    presents with early Christians’ need of such authoritative teachers
    before the New Testament was formalized.

  • John Starke

    Thanks, Dr. Bird. I certainly don’t want to “deny that Paul’s letters were in any way contingent on their context or circumstances.” Apologies if that’s what seemed to be communicated. I tried to pass the review by as many people as possible, both who have read your e-book and are up-to-date on contextual concerns. Clarity probably isn’t as easy when reviewing 3 books at the same time. Cheers.

    • Mike Bird

      John (call me “Mike” or “Michael”). I got an ahistorical “impression” from you, I tried to communicate that it was no more than an impression. But I was also concerned that you might have brought into Piper’s treatment of historical study as some kind of Gnosticism. At one level, I share the concerns you raised, yet I I seriously thought I had assuaged them in the ebook. Of course, in a triple review, it’s hard to communicate everything you do or don’t believe! But do get your church to send you on a trip to Turkey and Greece, I think John Dickson might even be leading a tour some time soon. I’m sure you guys will have tonnes to talk about!

      • John Starke

        I would certainly want to fully agree w/Dickson’s article on understanding first century history. I assigned him to write that article on the importance of historical background that you mention in your review.

  • Sue

    I had discussed with John Starke some time ago, the fact that there are no examples of authenteo used with a positive connotation before, or near the era of the NT. The citation that was given my Kostenberger and Schreiner, in Philodemus, does not exist.

    And this is why Dr. Kostenberger was quite clear on Justin Taylor’s blog that there is no lexical evidence for authenteo being used with a positive connotation. Therefore, the books by Kostenberger and Schreiner cannot honestly be used in the way that John Starke uses them. The authors themselves need to make a public correction, although in my view Kostenberger has already admitted that his book is not accurate.

    I dearly wish that more Christian men could honour women enough to speak truth to them. But in my experience that is not likely to happen.