By now you may have heard about John MacArthur stating Beth Moore should "Go Home" at a conference celebrating his 50 years as a pastor. Mr. MacArthur doesn't think women should be allowed to preach or teach.
I used to think women shouldn't preach. I hate to admit that now. You see, I didn't know anything about exegesis. (I feel so smart typing that word 🤓) Exegesis means: critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture. It means reading a text in light of the context in which it was written, understanding the kind of writing you're reading, and keeping in mind the entire story instead of plucking out a couple of verses and infusing your own meaning into them (known as eisegesis 🤓).
I've had to wrestle a lot with this topic and I would love to share with you what I have learned along the way. (Disclaimer: I'm not an expert and the following is the result of lots of conversations with people way smarter than me!)
The Bible was written in a patriarchal society. Men were in charge and women were to stay home, bear and rear children, and keep a clean and hospitable home. A regular prayer of thanksgiving for Jewish men was, "Praise be to God that he has not created me a woman." 😳 Women were allowed very little freedom. Some were only allowed to leave the home if they were going to the synagogue. They were not allowed to study the sacred text that men were required to study. They couldn't read aloud nor bear witness to God's goodness in public. There was even a Rabbi in the first-century that said, "Rather should the word of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman." GEEZ!
Then enters Jesus. He speaks to women in public! He comforts them! He heals them! He offers forgiveness and salvation! He sees their dignity and worth as daughters of the most high God! Jesus had female disciples including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna who all supported His ministry out of their private means. There were women disciples at the foot of the cross. Women were the first to see Jesus' resurrection and were commanded to go spread (preach) the news! Mary Magdalene was called a "messenger" of the risen Christ!
The disciples carried on Jesus' example after His ascension to heaven! Romans 16:1-6 is devoted to Paul sending his greetings and appreciation to women leaders in God's church. In verse 3 he says, " Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus." Fellow workers! Not, "second class Jesus followers that should remain quiet".
But wait a minute. This same Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." Case closed then I suppose? That's certainly what I thought. But then I listened to scholars who had studied this text extensively and they started to make me think. They helped me understand that there is more to the story here. I was reminded that women were uneducated and not allowed to study the scriptures. So it was likely that many sat in church confused, resulting in them asking their husbands questions, resulting in disruption of the service. So Paul was likely saying, "stay quiet during service and ask your questions at home so as to not disrupt the room". I suppose if we want to take this text to mean that women shouldn't preach, shouldn't we not allow women to speak at all in church? No chit chat during pre-service coffee. No hugs and prayers after a convicting message. No teaching children their Sunday school lessons. After all, it's disgraceful for women to speak in church right?
But then I had to wrestle with 1 Timothy 2:11. "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet." Ok that is VERY straightforward! Women are not to teach! EXCEPT the more I dug into the scripture and asked questions of those more versed than myself, I learned that many women in the Ephesus church (the church Paul is specifically writing to in this text) were troublemakers and a major part of the false teaching happening there. Paul commanding that the women in the church of Ephesus not be permitted to teach was culturally relevant to the issues THAT specific church was having.
Finally, I was instructed to look at what Paul says about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12:3-11 it says, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."
If Paul really meant to say that women, in every circumstance and for all time, were not supposed to be preaching/teaching in the church, why didn't he make the gifts of the Spirit gender specific? He could have easily said, "here are the gifts that men can get and here are the gifts that women can get". But he opens chapter 12, "Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters" and proceeds to address them as equals.
So if Jesus is my example as to how women should be treated and if the context of Paul's words matter, I can't help but come to the conclusion that if The Holy Spirit has gifted a woman to preach/teach she should do just that! NOT for the sake of power. NOT because it's 2019 and we should "get with the times for goodness sake". But because God has equipped her to speak His truth for the sake of His kingdom!
I realize that what I have learned and touched on here just scratches the surface. I've been told that the Old Testament makes a good case for the value and place of women in leadership. But my brain can only handle so much information at a time!
Perhaps you are struggling with this topic and if so, I hope some of what I shared about my journey will be helpful to you. I realize that not everyone reading through the ways I have wrestled with this is going to come to the same conclusion as me. That's OK!
The good news is that this is one of those issues that is a non-essential. Meaning, whether you believe women should preach or not has nothing to do with God's undeniable, unchanging, everlasting love for you or me!
But I am so glad Beth Moore didn't go home! I'm just sayin...