Don’t Ordain Women? Don’t Baptize Them!

Don’t Ordain Women? Don’t Baptize Them! June 12, 2012

From Daniel Kirk at CBE:

Joshua wasn’t sure how far things should go. He liked that Moses led. He liked standing guard while Moses entered the tent and served as mediator.

He didn’t like it when Moses’ ground was encroached upon. But Moses had a different vision:

“A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Joshua, Nun’s son and Moses’ assistant since his youth, responded, ‘My master Moses, stop them!’ Moses said to him,  ‘Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the LORD’s people were prophets with the LORD placing his spirit on them!” (Numb. 11:27-29, CEB).

Moses’ vision was the vision of Joel, the reality of Pentecost:

“Peter stood with the other eleven apostles. He raised his voice and declared, ‘Judeans and everyone living in Jerusalem! Know this! Listen carefully to my words! These people aren’t drunk, as you suspect; after all, it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! Rather, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young will see visions.
Your elders will dream dreams.
Even upon my servants, men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy'” (Acts 2:14-18, CEB).

On Pentecost, Peter declares, the day has come in which the wish of Moses is realized. There is no stinginess in the outpouring of the Spirit.

Nor is it sequestered to one part of the community.

In particular, this passage in Joel emphasizes twice that the gift is not only for all the men of Israel, but for all the women as well.

Not only sons, but daughters.

Not only manservants, but maidservants.

In the past month I have seen both a button and a bumper sticker that read:

“If you’re not going to ordain women, stop baptizing them!”

The logic is impeccable.

The end of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 culminates with: “repent and be baptized…for the promise is for you and yours…” (Acts 2:39-39). What promise? The promise of the Spirit.

Baptism in water is the physical representation of baptism by the Spirit into the body of Christ. The same Spirit by which we are baptized, represented in the waters of baptism, is the Spirit who is poured out on all, so that all may prophesy, all may dream dreams for the people of God.

The same Spirit poured out in fulfillment of Moses’ wish and Joel’s promise is the one who, baptizing us into Christ, provides each a gift according to God’s good pleasure.

At its core, the failure to open up every aspect of the ministry of the church to women is an admission that we do not believe that preaching, teaching, and leading are gifts of the Spirit.

The Spirit who sees to it that in Christ there is no Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, is the same Spirit who enables people to speak on God’s behalf. All of us, male and female, who have been baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ, are God’s sons in Christ, and Abraham’s seed.

Pentecost is when we all receive the Spirit of the freedom of the sons of God: so that all may participate in the Body according to God’s giving of the gifts, and that all may inherit all the promises—even Joel’s.


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  • Interesting that you neglect to reference any of the Scripture that limits eldership to godly, qualified men.

  • Matt Summers

    Also, you neglect to reference any of the Scriptures that make it clear that different people, are given different spiritual gifts, for different purposes. We are all given gifts, we are all ordained by the Holy Spirit into ministry, but we are not all gifted to do the same kind of ministry–different kinds of people have different kinds of roles–and this fact does not negate equality or ministry. The bumper sticker amounts to the fallacy of false choice.

  • phil_style

    @ Matt “but we are not all gifted to do the same kind of ministry”

    So might a woman ever be gifted to teach a man?

  • Where’s the bit in the Bible that talks about ordination? For men or for women?

  • I’m inclined to agree with the first two commenters – this sort of oversimplification is unlikely to persuade anyone who doesn’t already share this theological view. From baptism to receipt of the Spirit, yes; from receipt of the Spirit to exercising all the spiritual gifts, questionable. There are better arguments than this one!

  • One question I would have is whether or not you would think Paul, then, was limiting the lead of the Holy Spirit in the women he told to be silent and whether or not he was limiting the Spirit when he talked about male elderships. I don’t think anyone would accuse Paul of doing that in those situations and yet that seems to be what this post says is happening today by people who would act as Paul did. Help me see where I am missing it on that one.

  • Man, has this whole issue been mucked up over the centuries. We need the Spirit to renew our understanding according to the word.

    How I see it after much recent study and prayer: the relevant texts make it clear that elders are to be male leaders who are affirmed by the local church because of their fruitful and mature life in Christ. They’re to serve for establishing the body in the gospel faith and life. Here’s where we shoot ourselves in the foot– most of our elder-led churches unwisely expect the elders to exercise the totality of the gifts of the Spirit and fulfill all the ministry/leadership roles in the church. And with this unbiblical idea in mind most churches leave all decisionmaking to the elders. Where in the world did we get that idea?! Elders ought to be involved in leading the life of the church but nowhere does the text say they have exclusive rights in that area.

    There are many other leaders mentioned in the NT besides elders, and we need to reclaim and affirm those roles today. We need to have elders, deacons, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers discerning together how to best equip and establish the local church for faithful belief and witness in the world. And as far as I can tell, the 5fold gifts + deacon role are open to men and women alike, and in my mind this makes male eldership a non-issue. It’s just a way some men in particular get to use their gifts to serve, while women serve in a host of other equally critical ways.

    Beyond this, it seems clear that ALL who follow Jesus are to grow in greater leadership capacity. We need to be exercising our gifts, discipling those around us as the Spirit gives opportunity.

  • SisterSallySue

    It’s time to understand cultural references cause I thought a MAN taught me that is how scripture is to be understood. Go read Paul, Women, and Wives…not sure on the author. Jesus appeared to women FIRST after the resurrection. Jesus made special note to make sure his mother was taken care of when he was on the cross. Jesus made special effort to welcome all children, not boys specifically. Deborah was a prophetess. Philip, wasn’t it, had FIVE daughters who were deaconesses. Where is ordination biblical? Why must we read all this stuff INTO the lines between the scriptures? I think men are fearful of their identity or women leaders wouldn’t be an issue. HA! There were all kind of other women who were leaders in their community and in their home: Lydia, Lois, Eunice, Dorcas… It was a woman who offered all she had to wash Jesus’ feet and wipe his feet with her hair. It was the men and the “church” leaders who criticized her. Blow me away, men, blow me away! 🙂 What is it about a woman in a leadership position that frightens you?

  • God calls all of us to ministry – professional ministers and non-professional ministers, alike. The first evangelists were women. The first people to “get it” (the woman at the well, etc.) were female. I agree that this is a non-issue.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    I remember and old quote that goes like this “When you step out of the baptistry, you step into the ministry.” Of course, ordination now has become professionalized in most churches. As long as this is the case, it would be a misnomer to equate baptism (which is for all) and ordination (which is for a few) in how it is practiced in most churches today. But as Patrick said in #4, where in scripture do we get the distinctions concerning ordaination we have come up with today in the modern church?

  • Richard

    The older I get the more I’m wondering if this male/female leadership thing is more cultural than scriptural. For centuries, most cultures have been male dominant. The Bible was written in a male dominant culture. The growth of the church from the beginning to the present day has been predominantly male oriented. But a shift in culture seems to be occurring. Could it be that the providence of God is steering people to a Kingdom of God mentality where men and women are equally gifted for his service? Can it be that all the Bible references to male leadership are in a context of the culture where God is accommodating himself to us. I’m not a gifted expositor like many of you, but it seems to me there might be Biblical warrant for this kind of view.

  • As a convinced ‘Complementarian’, one of the reasons I read Jesus Creed is to be exposed to good counter arguments to my view.

    Respectfully, I don’t think this is a very strong argument. However, I will continue to read because I believe in engaging opposing viewpoints in their strongest form.

  • ann

    As woman who has read and loved the Scripture for many years, I believe the bumper sticker has it wrong. Baptism is related to justification. All believers and made clean from sin and established as righteous in God’s sight on the basis of Jesus’ death imputed to us. Ordination is related to responsibility–overseeing the church of God. Though related, the two are distinctly different.

    It seems very clear from creation and from Paul’s writings that we women have been given a helper’s role–a role that is unique, though not inferior. Many in my own constituency refer to our responsibilities as “life-givers.” We can certainly be personal evangelists, teachers, encouragers, nurturers, pray-ers, and have productive Christian lives without ordination.

  • Adam Hildebrandt

    I feel this debate is no longer a real debate. Your either scared of women, and loosing your old fashion high seat, or not. Like Marc at Bad Catholic’s

  • Jason

    Do churches who use 1 Timothy 2:8-15 as a reason for women not being elders/ordained also prevent women from braiding their hair, wearing gold, pearls or expensive clothing? Paul says that women are saved through childbearing in this same reference. What of women who are unable to have children? Has God forsaken them? I would also not that in this section of scripture, Paul says “I permit no woman…” He says “I” not the Lord. I believe we must look at the whole of Scripture in this issue and not a few verses out of context. Throughout the Bible we see women as leaders of the people of Israel (both the men and women) and the NT church.

  • Steven Winiarski

    Any arguement for women pastors and deacons that is based on a cultural understanding misinterprets the text. Passages that give such a prohibition do not appeal to the culture, but to creation. It was not a cultural issue that led to these commands, but an appeal to the roles that God gave both men and women. Scot’s arguement here, is actually rather unique, but as others have said, it does represent a small portion of texts that deal with the issue.

  • DRT

    Steve, Winnipeg, Canada #12 says;

    Respectfully, I don’t think this is a very strong argument. However, I will continue to read because I believe in engaging opposing viewpoints in their strongest form.

    No amount of arguing is going to take the words of Paul out of the bible. If you are gong to believe that the male headship sayings of Paul are true for all then you are not going to find another verse or anther scenario that is better.

    The powerful argument is this one, and the women at the tomb, and that there is no longer man or woman, and the teachings of Jesus, and everything else. This is not a game of one argument doing it. It is the preponderance of the evidence. If you allow a couple select passages to overturn the major themes across the NT then you will always be lost.

  • Mabel

    Being an elder should be about character, not chromosomes. The “husband of one woman” emphasizes moral character, not gender. If we are told not to covet our neighbor’s wife, it does not follow we can then covet our neighbor’s husband. The point is not to covet, not what to covet. The point of who can be elder should be who has moral character, not who is male. If you believe in exclusive male ministry, you believe in a spiritual gender caste system. I know many sincerely believe that God only calls men to be leaders. The basic theological logic of that is double standard and sexism. Is there one single thing that a modern day Elder does in the Church that is off limits to a Godly woman? teaching? preaching? caring? authority over others (as Wayne Grudem & John Pipers & others believe)? just what? To those who subscribe to CBMW, “role” means one thing and one thing only: male authority. Are Elders the people who can exercise “authority over others”? Is that Biblical? Ann @ #13, if all believers are saved the same way, it should follow that all are eligible to be ministers based on spiritual maturity, giftedness and calling, not the flesh. Who are we to deny Godly women for ministries? Why is their ministry smaller than the unlimited opportunities we give to men? What is qualification based on? the flesh or the spirit? Eve is a helper suitable for Adam, as in someone good enough to be his help, versus any of the animals. The same word helper is used to describe God. When someone is never the leader and always the follower, that someone is ontologically inferior. No getting around it. It is true that women can do this that and the other without ordination, so can men. There should be no double standard. Not only should we strive to do the best we can, we should not bind the hands and feet of those whom God had called. Katie Hays told her personal journey of hurt and rejection by her own church (at the CBE Houston conference) simply because she is a woman. A man of her calibre would be welcomed by and given all the opportunities in the church. There was not a dry eye in the house when she told her story. In our zealousness to follow the Scripture, we actually cause great harm to our own sisters. It is not just a gender issue, it is a justice issue also.

  • Charles

    I won’t address the numerous logical leaps made here. Some of the comments have already done that. But, one thing that anyone who has worked in Acts should know is that how Joel 2 is being used in Acts 2 is a complicated issue, a fact that is evidenced by the variety interpretive approaches one notes in the interpretive tradition. It is interesting that the author ends the quote with Acts 2:18. Why not finish out Peter’s quotation of Joel 2 in Acts 2:19-21? If you are going to argue that the first part of the Joel text is normative, then you have to at least explain how the rest of the quotation is normative or not. I only raise the issue because the original author seems to assume that what is going on in this text is cut-and-dry.

  • T

    I realize this is simply not an option for many folks, but I do wish more in the church could experience men and women prophesying, and recognizing it as such, especially in the context of these debates. We accept that “preaching” and “teaching” still happens, but too few recognize or allow for prophesying. IME, when prophesying is openly allowed, churches learn how true it is that the Spirit does so through men and women. When that reality of the Spirit in the church becomes part of the culture, these debates become much less pointed, because both men and women value the prophetic gifts that come through women. The fight over the pulpit, or the title to stand behind it becomes much less important when both men and women are prophesying for everyone’s benefit.

  • scotmcknight

    Steven Winiarski, “Scot” did not have an argument because Scot did not write this post; it is by Daniel Kirk.

  • Alan K

    Steve #16,
    If Paul argues on the basis of creation, why is not creation the basis for his whole theology? Most certainly we gain from his letters and from the account of his life in Acts that Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of his theology. If this is so, then it seems that it would be appropriate to ask why does Paul in his letter to Timothy cite the order of creation to make his point? Why all of a sudden a non-Christological account of the human being?

  • john lussier

    Did y’all read the passage from Joel? Prophesy from men AND women. Where do you read the Bible and not see prophecy as an authoritative/didactic/corrective action? The prophetic voice, is it not a teaching voice? Does it command authority or not?if it does, then we are either reading Paul on eldership/teaching incorrectly, or he got it wrong and didn’t read Joel either. I am gonna lean on my own fallibility her and at least say women and men will prophesy in the church together. Amen!

  • Rick in IL

    The solid foundation of support for women in all areas of ministry has been sort of assumed in this article. Most of the comments seem to suggest that there’s a whole basis for the post, with which the posters are unaware. Scot’s “Blue Parakeet” would be a very worthwhile read for those (esp. Steve, who looks for good counter arguments). A very good introductory statement from my own denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church, will answer some of the questions asked by responders above. It is found here:

  • E.G.

    Andrew #5: I disagree.

    This is a major issue. Specifically, are gifts partitioned via the Spirit by gender or not? If not (and I see no evidence for it and I’d challenge you to show us some) then it is a sin to bar anyone with a gift from practicing it.

    This is an argument that cuts the the bone of the patriarchal position, which is why the first two commenters flipped out the way that they did. This argument is a stinging rebuke to those who would distort Scripture to maintain a favorable power balance at the expense of sinning against the Spirit.

  • E.G.

    Matt #6: Of course Paul was not doing that.

    Remember, as I read elsewhere recently, epistles are letters that are written for us, but not to us. To understand what’s going on in them, we need to understand the people to whom the letter was written.

    In the cases that you mention (I assume Corinthians and Timothy):

    -In the Corinthians letter, the first is obviously not what Paul meant because just a little while before that he tells women who are prophesying to cover their heads. There is an assumption that they would prophesy in the assembly

    -In the Timothy letter, you need to spend some time understanding the goddess-worship culture of Ephesus and look at the language carefully in that context.

    Also, in both cases these are not simple-to-interpret passages, so both must be interpreted in light of other Scripture. On top of that, why pick-and-choose. If you’re really all for silencing women, then you should also be prescribing head coverings, no make-up, no braided hair, etc. that are mentioned in each context. I can at least respect groups that are consistent that way. But if you’re not going do that, then you’re already applying “cultural” context to the text. So don’t blame mutualists for the same.

  • Fred

    “could experience men and women prophesying, and recognizing it as such,”

    What does prophecy look like in real life (to you)? This is a serious question coming from an amateur. I would venture that prophecy is a call to return to the covenant but I would like to hear your perspective.

  • eric

    I first found your blog several years ago after you spoke at our seminary chapel. I found Jesus Creed to be a place where good dialogue could happen around topics even where people strongly disagree. I found it refreshing that even where you disagreed space and respect was given to each side of the issue. Sadly, over the last couple of months I have noticed that at least on this issue, that is no longer the case. Posts presenting a complementarian perspective are now posted very rarely, and when they are it is dismissively, almost with disdain. Is this now a non-negotiable, and no longer worthy of intelligent discussion? I respect your work greatly, even in places where I disagree, but it seems that in this area you are becoming what I have seen you fight against in this space for years.

  • E.G.

    Eric #28: Would you expect a posting about those who accept slavery to be gentle?

    Then why would you expect it of this, another justice issue?

    Unlike other theological debates in our churches today (e.g. cessationism, eschatology, election, etc.) this one actually affects real people in real and adverse ways. And our approach to this in our churches also has an impact on the larger culture in which women still are abused and mistreated and seen to be less-than-equal.

    So, yes, sometimes the gloves need to come off. And this is one of those issues, because there is deep sin involved in the hierarchalists’ camp.

  • eric

    So every person that is truly seeking God, studies the Bible, listens to the Spirit and comes to a complementarian position is harboring “deep sin” Yes many have and continue to abuse this position, but to paint all complementarians into that corner is just wrong.

  • T


    IMO, yes, it could be a call to return to the covenant, but it probably needs a little more explanation. Paul says, in one place, “If I have the gift of prophecy, and can fathom all mysteries” and in another he says if unbelievers come in to the church while someone is prophesying, “the secrets of their hearts will be laid bare, and they will say, ‘God is truly among you!'” And even the woman at the well, when Jesus tells her that she has had multiple husbands, and that the man she has now isn’t her husband, she replies, “I see you are a prophet.” There are many other examples, but the bottom line from these is that prophecy is often Spirit-led action or speech that is motivated by or contains the benefit of God’s unique perspective and knowledge, which frequently goes beyond the knowledge or ability of the speaker. People often only think of these hidden things as being in the future, but clearly scripture doesn’t limit prophecy to that. God-led speech or symbolic action can be extremely varied, as we see from scripture. It can be short or long, individually directed or communally directed. It’s can be varied in form, but always with the kinds of goals he has. Yes, “a call to return to the covenant” is one way to put it, but I think we see lots of prophecy in the NT that wouldn’t fit neatly in that category. Prophecy is God-led communication, and it could be anything that he might want to say or how he might want to say it, generally for building people up in the faith.

    You could probably search Scot’s site for some prior posts I’ve led on that topic here and get more if you would like. For these purposes, I think we could discuss this with greater grace if more churches were actually letting women and men do what they clearly do in the NT, and what Moses (and Paul) wanted whole communities of God’s people doing: prophesying.

  • Daniel Kirk’s article is interesting to me because I was thinking about this subject the other day as to why no one seems to see that tie between Joel, Acts, and Gal. And along comes Daniel to show that there are those who see this. Kirk is mainly writing about Acts and some of the commentors here are blasting about only men being in the eldership, yada, yada. He shows that what Peter is saying at Pentecost in reference to the prophecy of Joel is basically the same thing as what Paul says in Gal 3. He makes the tie between Joel 2, Acts 2, and Gal 3. I personally also see a tie to 1 Cor 12. About the only thing he didn’t mention was that the Holy Spirit fell on all of them (120) in that room on Pentecost, which included women. We are also told that “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:4)” It would seem that there are many people that are so blinded by traditions that they fail to be able to see important ties in Scripture in many areas that would help correct the church in general in its erroneous and heretical restrictions on women.

    Complimentarianism, which I see being pushed by numerous commentors here as the only scriptural practice, is not scriptural. There are only two gender systems in scripture: the God established egalitarian system in the creation before sin and the man established patriarchal system after sin. Jesus corrected the man system by being nailed to the cross and returned it to the egalitarian system God established when he created man and woman in his image. However, even though it is wrong and Scripture teaches against it, the patriarchal system has continued to remain in practice world wide as culture changes slowly in some areas. The complimentarian system is a modern invention by the CBMW around 1986, give or take, in an effort to compromise between the two systems and keep women controlled and lesser than men. It does not exist in Scripture and is therefore heretical in nature. Since Jesus died for our sins and carried them to the cross, the patriarchal system which was established because of sin and cpontinues to be sin based is no longer acceptable to God. That leaves only God’s original egalitarian system of man and woman both being made equally in God’s image. It would seem that Joel 2, Acts 2, 1 Cor 12, and Gal 3 all support that fact. Daniel does a good job, IMO, of making that point.

  • James Duncan

    I must agree with Andrew completely. I found the argument for all gifts for all genders unconvincing and thin. Is it a subject that shouldnt be challenged or debated? No, of course not! Is it a subject that I can get completely straight in my own head? No, not exactly. However that being said we need to ensure that we approach such a discussion with reverence, care and faithfulness to the scriptures.

    I have to say that from my own reading of scripture and discussion with godly men and women I believe that men and women were created equal but assume different but equally vital roles. Women most certainly undertake leadership roles (and do) but I find scripture clear in that the role of an Elder is set aside for men. We should not be as presumptious as to read in to the scripture meaning that is not there but rather attempt to prayerfully expound the more difficult passages/topics with an openess to hear God speak through His word..

    I would like to thank @Ann for her post as I find it encouraging and honouring of men and women. You may not agree with her, however we should all respond to such discussions with similar grace and integrity.

    God bless

  • Evan

    I love reading your Blog, many of the reposes make me smile. Some because they are I believe are in line with my own understanding, some because I think they are far from it. Here is what I love about the responses I had time to read. I see among your readers that you have gathered a great group of people who are honestly trying to search out the scriptures, understand their intention and put them into practice. This must be very pleasing to our great Author and prefecture of our faith. Of course I have my own opinion, but my willingness to admit that I might be wrong is what I hope Jesus will use to reach his creation. Both man and female.
    Thanks for continuing to put this conversation back on the table for discussion. Oh by the way I have been moved by what I’m learning about Acts 2. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit Indiscriminately. Love it.

  • Here’s more impeccable logic…and alternative titles to this blog post:

    Don’t Ordain Children? Don’t Baptize Them!

    Don’t Ordain Infants? Don’t Baptize Them!

    Don’t Ordain the Mentally Ill? Don’t Baptize Them!

    Let’s not forget that Joel 2 is not just a prophecy about young men and women but also about the entire congregation of Israel — including “the least of them” – infants and children. Dr. Kirk’s post doesn’t do anything but prove too much. Therefore, his logic is not quite as impeccable as he’d like to believe.

  • E.G.

    eric #30: If this were 1855 and the issue were slavery, yes, the slave-owner making the argument would be in deep sin no matter how steeped in Scripture his or her arguments were. I, frankly, don’t see any reason that the parallel is not true today. Particularly in the case of church leaders and those (men) in authority who are making the arguments that lead others astray.

    I will grant that there are many who perhaps do not have the time and/or resources to tackle the issue on their own. Those folks have more of an excuse, yes.

  • scotmcknight

    Let’s take a deep breath here: as I read Daniel on this one he is making this claim:

    Baptism in Acts 2 leads to the gift of the Spirit. (We have to agree here.)
    The Spirit in Acts 2 empowers/gifts/enables both males and females to prophesy. (That’s what Peter says in quoting Joel.)

    From this Daniel makes the connection: baptism leads to gifting and if we accept baptism, we accept the gifts (of prophecy, no less) the Spirit gives. (That’s more or less what he means by “ordain” them.)

    Eric, well, I don’t like to defend here but let me say this: I did a whole series on the Tim Keller book, which is an overtly complementarian view, and I did not dismiss him one bit. (And he co-wrote this with Kathy, his wife.) And I did a series through John Piper’s book on marriage, too. So, I have given complementarians air time on this blog. (Do I need to ask if you see fair reviews of egalitarian views — and a long series at that — on TGC blogs and the like?)

    If you ask if I am going to suggest the complementarian view has as much going for it biblically as what I call “mutualism” (I don’t like egalitarian as a term for what the Bible teaches) then it’s not going to happen because I disagree strongly with that view. And I have argued in my Junia book and Blue Parakeet at length for some of the views that only get mentioned here.

    So I’m not sure any mood change has occurred in the last few months, and if there is I haven’t intended it. In this amount of time I did the series on Keller, so I’d like you to consider that as part of what is happening at this blog.

  • But, Scot, Acts 2:38-39 says that this gift is for you and *your children* and the passage in Joel says God will pour out his Spirit on *all flesh* (and we learn from the gospels that this extends to the pre-born in the womb via John the Baptist). All of that undoubtedly implies giftedness for all but I seriously doubt anyone here is going to claim that children ought to be ordained. Dr. Kirk’s position inevitably proves too much.

  • eric

    thanks for your reply and that is a fair response, it was something I felt I had noticed recently, and then I wanted to check and scrolled back a ways through the women in ministry category, but not the love and marriage category so I missed/forgot about those. I certainly don’t expect you to advocate for a different view, but have always found this to be a place that gave a real hearing to opposing viewpoints. I do enjoy your blog and have learned a lot from the time I have spent here.

  • The problem is equating the gift of prophecy with the office of elder. A proper complementarian view, IMO, does not claim that women are less capable to lead. I find that difficult to substantiate both experientially and biblically. I am sure there are many women who make/would make excellent pastors, preachers, and elders. However, gifting is not the basis for excluding women–at least I don’t think so. Consequently, someone like Deborah was gifted with prophecy and was a judge, but was not a priest. Also, Barak was censured for not being willing to lead the Israelites out without Deborah. Likewise, in the NT we see examples of women with the gift of prophecy and various other roles, but they are explicitly excluded from the office of elder. I think it is a particularly American (or Western or Modern) notion that if one has the gift, one ought to be able to have the office. Not so. Gift and office don’t have to correspond, as Moses found out despite his protestations with YHWH.

    My 2 cents, anyway.

  • E.G.

    One more thing to say, and then I’ll put a lid on it for my part.

    I see some similarities in this current debate and the now-much-more-muted creationism wars.

    In each case there is a small but prominent group – many of whose members are likely true believers in the particular cause, but all of whom also benefit from the debate and its outcome – that makes strong-sounding pronouncements on the topic. And, in fact, some of them are more than willing to frame it as a salvation issue or, at very least, an issue of dire attack on the church.

    This leaves many in-the-trench evangelicals – who don’t have the time, resources, or (often) education – to either take the group’s pronouncements at face value or risk being thought of as somehow on the verge of apostasy.

    It’s thus easy to simply grab the legalist hook and hold on thinking all the while that “whew, I don’t fully understand this issue or really have the time to deal with it, but the experts seem to agree; and isn’t it safer just to take the most ‘conservative’ position anyhow?”

    Grabbing that hook is easy, requires very little extra effort in terms of study and thought, and keeps you safe from being seen as straying.

    So, yes, I’ll reiterate. Folks that find themselves in that situation – and often that is due to upbringing and/or just never thinking about it as an important issue – are not at fault here.

  • Scot McKnight

    Kevin, I can’t speak for Kirk but I suspect you are pressing ‘children’. It means descendants. And ‘all flesh’ will mean Jews and Gentiles. God will gift all such people. I do think the word ‘ordain’ gets in the way. Kirk connects baptism to gifts. If the gift is prophecy…. for a woman…that’s where his logic is tight I think.

  • Scot,

    Where does the Bible say that the gift of prophecy is what makes one capable of ordination? I guess Paul just had no idea what he was talking about in 1 Timothy 3 ff. Besides, weren’t there times in the Bible where someone (man or woman) prophesied merely once and was not seen as a prophet? Can we not see similar events at Pentecost? Why is Pentecost *absolutely* paradigmatic here when the Bible doesn’t even endorse one polity over another in terms of how we govern our local assemblies? We don’t do miracles today like they did back then–why should we think ministry ought to look exactly the same? Where are the twelve apostles, then? Again, Kirk presses too hard here.

    Furthermore, the word in Acts 2:38-39 is not descendants but “teknon” — children. Just like the male children slain in Bethlehem at the birth of our Lord in Matthew 2:18. Same word.

  • P.

    Does this boil down to proof-text vs. non-proof-text? If you look at just the words on page or lift a verse out of its chapter, book, etc, then yes, it does seem that a woman’s role is restricted. But, if you put the words back in the paragraph, book, and the overall context of the situation Paul was addressing (pagan worship in Ephesus, etc.), and look at the Bible as a whole, then the egalitarian view emerges. Like E. G. said in # 26, Paul wrote for us but not specifically to us.

  • JHM

    For me the interesting logical leap from Kirk is from spiritual gifting to ordination, and from reading the comments that seems to be the common concern.

    Much of the debate in this particular conversation seems (to me) to boil down to the question, is ordination a spiritual gift? Kirk’s article suggests yes.

    I’ve never particularly considered ordination a spiritual gift, and I don’t remember any church I’ve been in calling it that. An analogy could be something like, an individual could be gifted in business management, but that doesn’t mean they would necessarily be a CEO. The “gifting” is separate from the particular role or office. I think many complementarians would say that women can have all the same gifting as men, but the “rules” prevent them from using their gift in some specific offices/roles. I think (and correct me if I’m wrong) that’s why some of the complementarian commenters so far have called Kirk’s argument “thin”.

  • This constant call for women to be given equal footing in churches when in many denominations they run them just gets a bit tiring. It’s not like it’s 1745. I agree that ordination is not a gift–it should merely be seen as an administrative necessity that works to provide local churches with an ability to provide witness to an internal call. We’ve institutionalized it in all our modern glory and as a result fighting over it becomes a real power struggle instead of faithfulness to what it really means to minister. Ordination does not seem like a big deal in the New Testament and they certainly didn’t run around wondering who’s gifted and who wasn’t. Things were a lot more obvious to Paul and the others, it seems. The ones that pressed their right to minister were usually the false teachers anyway. Perhaps we should learn from such things and avoid being so quick to take up a cause like we’re superheroes or something.

  • That’s just the sort of shallow, illogical exegetical malpractice that I expect from the Scripture-manglers at CBE.

    Peter’s statement that Joel’s prophecy that God will pour out His Spirit upon men and women is, there in the Day of Pentecost, being fulfilled, does not add up to the conclusion that women should be ordained as elders. If being filled with the Spirit were the sole qualification for a person to be ordained to be an elder, Daniel Kirk’s argument would make sense, but since Scripture provides other qualifications (such as being the husband of one wife), it does not make sense.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  • Richard M

    Here’s a thought. In Islam one of the reasons women should cover up is to stop them tempting the men, who are susceptible to being tempted.

    This of course says that the men have no responsibility of their own to resist temptation, something Jesus said was not the case when he said you commit adultery when you see with your own eyes i.e. the responsibility lies with the beholder.

    So, if in Christianity women should not have authority over men, is that because men have no responsibility to discern for themselves and would be easily swayed by a woman?

    If men are so vulnerable, then surely we should also take care not to have children taught by women either as children are surely more open to being swayed than an adult.

    Women should therefore not teach in Sunday school.

  • Nick

    James #47

    “That’s just the sort of shallow, illogical exegetical malpractice that I expect from the Scripture-manglers at CBE.”

    One can sense a deep humbleness and Christian character about your approach to this issue. 😉


  • Nick,

    I’m calling it as I see it. Convincing you of my nobility is not my priority here. Did you have anything to say besides immature satire that actually addresses my objection to Kirk’s illogical post?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  • CGC

    To Eric #28 and other complemenatarians,
    “Please forgive us!” We get carried away sometimes. We get abused by complementarians and so we think its right to push back (which often means abuse back). Most of all, some of us (not all of us) have lost the capasity to talk about issues finding it difficult not to call into question people’s motives, character, intelligence and the like. After our yelling and insulting is over, we don’t understand why the other side does not want to come out and play. Why skeptics and atheists who often may be annoymous on this list are not compelled to become Christians and be like “us.” Some of us have forgotten how to keep conviction, compassion, and civility together. If we give an inch on an issue, others might think we are compromising. If we apologize, others might think we are weak. So we often do neither! Debating for many of us is easy. Actual dialogue is much more difficult so don’t be surprised that on certain issues, genuine dialogue is the first casuality in our conversation.

    On some issues, I can be on the winning team and still be ashamed on how some of my team mates play the game. I also know what it feels like to be on the losing team and wonder why the rules of competition have to be the rules we must play by anyway? Sometimes I even become a contrarian and therefore play on the other team because I hate to see any group of people turned into a kind of posterboy for what is supposed to be wrong with the church or the world.

    There are some conversations I learn so much and others that are beautiful examples of what Christian dialogue should look like (although sometimes it still looks like an inhouse conversation and one that is really not engaging some of the larger issues that others are bringing up from outside the house).

    I do believe in the Jesus Creed that we need to love God and others more and I am grateful for those who show tremendous passion for God and love for others on this list.

  • John W Frye

    I think a comment alluded to this: a miniscule set of debated texts which, when all is said and done, ends up being a few verses 1 Tim. 2-3, will *not* settle this issue. Well-read complementarians know fully (though they may disagree) the exegetical and cultural minefields attendant to “I don’t allow a woman to teach…” and “man was created first…”. After fussing through the verses, one has to make a major exegetical/interpretative choice: are these texts normative, that is, do they apply to all cultures in all ages, or are these texts *ad hoc*, that is, applying only and specifically to disturbing errors in the Ephesian church that Paul and Timothy were seeking to correct in their time at that place? We can’t obsess over these few texts to the neglect of the redeeming, mutuality-establishing salvation in Christ (see #32 @ Wiley Clarkson). I think subterranean energies move many to stay complementarian–they fight to protect God and the Bible and, sadly, the losers in their fight are the women redeemed, gifted, called and then sidelined. Whoever introduced the base theatrical term “role” into the biblical theology of the church IMO has hell to pay.

  • i have been thinking about this since last night when JHM in #45 brought up the relationship between gifting and ordination. i think s/he’s right that ordination is not a gift but a recognition of gifts, although the only ordination i can think of in the new testament is the deacons in acts 6 (anyone can feel free to correct me on this).

    also, i see complementarians on here who are affirming that the gifts of the Spirit are not distributed by gender. this is not my personal experience with complementarianism; those whom i have talked to generally deny that women are gifted for leading or teaching (above whatever is needed for maternal instruction). i am glad to see complementarians affirming that the Spirit does not restrict gifts by gender!

    however, the issue as i see it is this, and i think this is the implicit logical jump being made in the original post: we have taken ordination as recognition of gifting and added to that ordination as a requirement for exercising those gifts. this is obviously true in established denomenations, but it was also true in the nondemonenational church i grew up in. therefore, if you are willing to grant that women can be gifted as leaders, teachers, prophets, you have to ordain them (under this paradigm) so they can exercise their gifts. it seems this way to me because i am currently very close to this process… as a woman who has been affirmed to have a teaching gift, and certainly a call to teach, i have joined a denomenation and entered the ordination process because teaching the church is seen as an ordained role. in order to exercise my gift for the building up of the church, i have to be ordained. i never intended nor expected to go down this path, but i have discovered while in seminary that this is just a fact of church life. and i don’t see much of a point of going to seminary and then (hopefully!) on to a ph.d. and not be able to use all that education and training and gifting to build up my local church.

  • EG #26 you wrote,

    “Also, in both cases these are not simple-to-interpret passages, so both must be interpreted in light of other Scripture. On top of that, why pick-and-choose. If you’re really all for silencing women, then you should also be prescribing head coverings, no make-up, no braided hair, etc. that are mentioned in each context. I can at least respect groups that are consistent that way. But if you’re not going do that, then you’re already applying “cultural” context to the text. So don’t blame mutualists for the same.”

    Where do you find me doing any of that in my comment? I think you are projecting past experience with others on my comment.