This morning, I posted the following on Twitter:
Here’s the problem with complementarianism in a nutshell. The historic justification has been that they are less intellectual & more emotionally unstable than men, but that’s clearly sexist. Women are no less well equipped than men to be profound teachers and leaders. So one might then retreat to the justification that it is somehow against the order of creation for women to lead, but without some underlying justification/rationale, that too just looks like sexism. Last stop: “The Bible commands it”; translation: “My interpretation of Paul’s words in 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 commands it.” So we’re left with profound female leaders vs. a couple of contested commands in occasional documents (letters). The cognitive dissonance is significant.
I was prompted, in part, to post those tweets due to an unfolding conversation I had with a complementarian named Tyler Tebo. Tyler was a good sport and stuck with my questioning much longer than many folks would. But here is my lesson: If you’re going to say that it is a sin for women to teach or preach, you need to be able to state clearly when/where/why that is a sin and when/where/why it is not. As I try to demonstrate, in pursuit of consistency, complementarians often find themselves backed into casuistic absurdity.
Here’s our conversation:
TT: Being a false prophetess spurting bad theology is a great sin. A woman preaching is also sin. So, I think his point is that there multiple sin issues going on here.
RR: When is a woman teaching a sin and when is it not a sin, in your view?
TT: Preaching and/or teaching (mixed groups) during worship services.
RR: So teaching a mixed group in adult Sunday school isn’t a sin? Or is that also part of the worship service? And if so, how do you define “worship service”?
TT: Yes women shall not teach men. Whether it be from the pulpit or bible class. God instituted an order and gave men and women different responsibilities. Equal in value, different in roles.
RR: Okay, so it isn’t just “worship services”. It’s also “bible classes”. How do you define a “bible class”? And are there any other restrictions where women teaching is also a sin, or is that it?
TT: Just bible classes where men are in attendance. A bible class is when Christian’s get together to exegiete scripture. Nothing wrong with women teaching other women and children.
RR: Okay, so a woman can teach systematic theology, pastoral theology, philosophical theology, or church history, just so long as she does not exegete Scripture. Is that your view?
TT: If it is outside of the gathering of the saints on the Lords Day. I don”t see why not. The context for what I was arguing was in the church service.
RR: So on your view, can a woman preach if they do not exegete the Scripture but instead depend on exegesis provided by a man?
TT: No they cannot preach or teach scripture. Sorry of I muddied the waters unintentionally. But by no means during the gathering of the saints should they teach or preach scripture. But shall instead remain silent
RR: You specified the Lord’s Day. Can they exegete or preach Scripture at a time other than the Lord’s Day?
TT: They can do an all womans bible study.
RR: To summarize, on your view, it is a sin for women to exegete the Bible or preach to men at any time (not just the Lord’s day and not just in worship services or Bible classes). Is that your view?
RR: I appreciate your patience as I seek to clarify your view. So if a woman has a PhD in New Testament and she published a critically lauded monograph on the Gospel of Matthew, and she is teaching a mixed class on systematic theology (which you’ve said would not be a sin). But then a man in the class asks her to explain a verse in Matthew, the text on which she is a recognized expert. On your view, it would be a sin for her to answer his question. Correct?
TT: No, I dont think that would fall under official teaching. So, to try and dive more into my point. Venue is important. A college classroom isnt part of a congregational meeting. In a congregational meeting, members are expecting official teachings of the church. It would also be voluntary, whereas a a member of a congregation would be commited to going to a weekly service and hearing teachings.
RR: But you already endorsed this summary of your view: “it is a sin for women to exegete the Bible or preach to men at any time (not just the Lord’s day and not just in worship services or Bible classes).” Are you changing your view now?
You can go on Twitter if you want to see any further discussion. But you get the gist: if you’re going to accuse women of sinning in virtue of preaching/teaching, you should be clear on when, where, and why it’s a sin. Forcing yourself to answer those questions consistently may bring you to reconsider (or at least greatly nuance) your claim that it is a sin.