Women’s Ordination: Novelty or God’s Word?

Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all. -Samuel Johnson

It is popularly thought that the prohibition on women’s ordination is based on old-fashioned ideas about female authority and “keeping women in their place.” Among its most strident supporters, female ordination arguments are usually presented in political language (“pro-woman,” “equality”). But of course, political claptrap is irrelevant. The Scriptural take (aka. God’s view) is what matters.

Some do try to support their arguments using the Bible. As with homosexual ordination, word parsing and contorted contextualizing have replaced seeking the clear sense of a verse or passage. Biblical women such as Priscilla, Phoebe, and Euodia are referred to although in none of these cases is it clearly stated that these women are teaching or in positions of authority (especially when compared to numerous instances of men holding direct and obvious authority). Every book in the Bible was written by a male. The 12 apostles are male. All of the early church bishops were male. That passages like 1 Tim 2:12 and 1 Cor 14:34 speak against female teaching and authority in the church is abundantly clear from the overwhelming testimony of the church since its 1st century beginnings. This is even admitted (derogatorily of course) by heterodox groups.

If we believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through his Word to believers throughout the ages, we should not discard the collective wisdom of our church fathers. Do supporters of female ordination consider it troubling that few promoted it until the last century? Women’s ordination is largely a 20th century novelty. The list of opponents is a who’s who of Christianity: Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, Chrystosom, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Charles Hodge, Matthew Henry, Warfield, C.S. Lewis, and on it goes. Writings against it would be more comprehensive except that this issue, like homosexuality, was never much under debate before the 20th century (there was a debate regarding deaconesses, but the historical church saw the deaconness as a different role than the male deacon). More on women in the church here, here, here, here, and here .

Promoters of women’s ordination need to seriously ask themselves: Do I really truly believe that God’s standards and goodness are superior to mine? Am I going to submit to the God’s wisdom or follow a novelty?

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