Evangelical Update

A resource for lefties who want to understand conservative Christians.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Women Teaching Men

Mainstream Christians and liberals may be surprised by this: Conservative Christians do not believe that women should teach men in spiritual matters. I first became aware of this concept through a post at Samantha's blog. While the mini-controversy (in the Reformed/conservative Presbyterian world, that is) that you shall see in the following paragraphs demonstrates that Reformed women will stand up for themselves as valuable contributors to the world, it also demonstrates their belief that spiritual matters are best left to men.

Samantha opened the abovementioned post with a quote from R.C. Sproul, Jr., prominent Presbyterian, and son of the more recognized theologian R.C. Sproul. Sproul Jr. says:

But I have seen others [other blogs], written by women, that set out, or so it seems, to set the world straight about Auburn Avenue theology, the history of the New Testament church, that seek to change this government policy or that, that direct you to this teacher or some other. Now bear in mind that many of these ladies are pushing the very same things I would push. The trouble I’m getting at isn't that they are pushing against what I think to be biblical wisdom, but that they are pushing at all.

I have grumbled in the past that the internet, for all its strengths, for all its power in diffusing centralized communication, comes with this exact kind of danger. People are teaching who shouldn't’ be teaching. And people are learning where they ought not to be learning.
Interestingly, this quote got a lot of conservative Christian women bloggers upset. Samantha states:

Is a man forbidden by Scripture to read a woman's blog if he might possibly learn something there? Should I have demurely refused to send my zines to the one man who ordered them, just in case he might gain a bit of knowledge, say, about how to make broiled chicken or the fact that the government has not always provided mail service? [Author's note: Samantha publishes a "zine."]
Karen, another conservative Reformed blogger ("from the prairie"), was dismayed as well and wrote:

[I found myself] wondering just how much smaller R.C.'s slice of evangelicalism will get, how much more narrow you must become in order to fit into his personal basket of orthodoxy. Especially if you are a woman.

...There are many men, strong Christian leaders in their homes, churches, and communities, who not only want their wives to think and express themselves, but they actually encourage it! These are the same men who have rejected the hyper-patriarchial views that are imposing lifestyles and views of a bygone era on to women who have been placed by God to serve and glorify Him in the 21st century.

Comments in both Samantha's and Karen's posts were overwhelmingly in support of their position. Cheryl, conservative Reformed blogger of Reformed Musings, wrote, "Do we honestly believe that when Priscilla and Acquila [when] working with Barnabas that Priscilla confined all her discussion to homemaking and serving her husband and children??? I'm no feminist, but I am right there with you Samantha." However, in the same breath, Cheryl also states, "Let's remember something here -- only those who are *called* by God are enjoined to teach in the Church. This not only automatically eliminates women, it also eliminates 99% of the men in this world." This statement affirms the belief that only men are called to be church leaders. In a similar strain, Cheryl, of "Konkadoo," writes:

I think it is adding to the scripture to suggest there are topics off limits to a Christian woman. What I mean by this is that the command is to teach in certain areas but there is not command to keep your mouth shut on everything else that is not gossip, cruel words or authority in theology. Yes, there are limits to a woman's authority but that does not mean limits to her total conversation. [italics mine]
So, ends up Sproul really felt the heat and apologized for his statement on May 9, 2005:

What I should have said is this: The Internet, because it allows for decentralized communication, multiplies the dangers that are inherent in our egalitarian age. Once upon a time, parachurch ministries, for all their dangers, had as an advantage that it took some level of financing to get the thing off the ground. That meant, however wobbly, some kind of broad accountability. Now we live in a world where someone with $15 a month can devote themselves to finding thousands of devoted students. Technology has made "Let not many of you become teachers" become a greater danger than it ever had been before. And "Do not lay hands on anyone hastily" (I Timothy 5:22) hasn't yet been translated into "Do not add Mr. or Mrs. Self-Professed Expert to your list of favorite links hastily," as it perhaps should be. The Internet, whatever its strengths, makes it easier for people, male and female, to "teach," albeit without authority, and makes it easier for people, male and female, to sit at the feet of "teachers," albeit without authority. I sinned in my own lack of care not only in how I said things but what I said. I failed not only to communicate accurately, but more importantly, to communicate biblically. Again, I apologize.

I put this here just so that you can see that he apologized, but obviously, this apology does not address the original issue of women bloggers.



While this is a very narrow examination of conservative Christians' view of men teaching women, it may be illustrative of the general conservative view: Women should not instruct men in spiritual matters.