There are No Female Pastors in Scripture

One argument against female pastors from complementarians is a logical fallacy known as an argument from silence: there is no explicit mention of female pastors in the New Testament and, therefore, women are not to be pastors -- especially in light of St Paul's alleged "obvious" proscription of female pastors at 1 Timothy 2:12. (See "I Do Not Permit a Woman to Teach" for contrary arguments than those proposed by complementarians.)

First, note that the argument is a logical fallacy, and then ask yourself if complementarians are permitted to buttress their views by appealing to a fallacious argument. Second, note that the first-century context being referred to as "biblical" is cultural, namely patriarchal. Then ask why complementarian husbands do not oblige their wives to call them "lord" (1 Pet. 3:6). Third, understand that the New Testament also does not mention Bible translations, church buildings, Sunday School, Wednesday or Sunday evening worship services, a Praise and Worship band or Worship Leader, electric guitars and drums, an elder board and a host of other unmentionables with which complementarians are quite comfortable.

If we Christians in the twenty-first century are called to mimic every aspect of "biblical" culture then complementarians themselves are unbiblical; for complementarian husbands not only fail to obligate their wives to call them "lord" (1 Pet. 3:6), but they also fail to
  • sell off their daughters (Ex. 21:7);
  • choose mates for their male sons (Gen. 24:1-67; Judges 14:3; cf. also 1 Cor. 7:36-38 NKJV);
  • reintroduce the practice of polygamy (Gen. 4:19; 29:21-30; Ex. 2:21; Deut. 21:15-17; Judges 8:30);
  • or, as St Paul wishes, for those who are single to remain single and celibate (1 Cor. 7:25-25);
  • reinstate the practice of slavery (Ex. 21; Lev. 25; Deut. 15; Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25; 1 Pet. 2:18); and
  • return to a government that is monarchical (1 Sam. 8:1-22).
Shall we not insist, then, that complementarians are unbiblical? I understand that complementarians will not appreciate being challenged thusly, as they agree that some of those practices are no longer relevant, and yet that is the very problem with complementarian arguments: they conveniently afford themselves the honor of deeming what is and what is not relevant and biblical for our Christian culture in any modern era.

Since Eve was created by God for Adam to be his helper (Gen. 2:18), עֵ֖זֶר, ezer, indicating that Adam, the man, needed help, then by design women are equal to men -- equal in value, intellect, and ability. (This Hebrew word, referring to "a help," is used of God as the divine Helper, cf. Deut. 33:7, 26, 29; Ps. 33:20; 70:5; 115:9-11; 146:5.) Exegeting scripture, providing the elements of the Eucharist to the believing masses, and instructing people in the word of God does not essentially require a penis. To me, that snarky comment represents a proper response to the seemingly fatuous nature of complementarian / patriarchal theory, and I think that this theology of male chauvinism must be eradicated from all viability.


But such will only be accomplished by not only taking the Bible seriously but also by embracing the contextual reality of the authors of the scriptures. In other words, we must properly assess the cultural heritage in which the authors of the scriptures thought and lived, and then adjust those contexts without always imitating them. For example, owning people as slaves is deemed immoral and unethical, even though God and the authors of the scriptures make allowances and guidelines for such. That women are treated like second- or third-class citizens in "biblical" times is deemed degrading, demeaning, and unethical. We must not embrace these "biblical" norms as "biblical" mandates for us today.

In the same way, we must not embrace but reject the dehumanizing nature of complementarian theory if we are to perpetually perceive of women as they are designed and created by God, as equals to men: helpers, like the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), who come alongside men, who are in need of help, as aids and equally-valid guides. If we fail to do so, and we embrace complementarianism, then we work against the Holy Spirit who, in the last days, gifts women to publicly pray and proclaim and exegete the word and works of God (cf. Acts 2: 17, 18; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5).

Do not allow complementarians to theologically bully you into thinking that their patriarchal views are biblical. They misinterpret a passage like 1 Timothy 2:12 and then turn passages like Acts 2:17-18, Acts 21:9, and 1 Corinthians 11:5 on their proverbial heads! They cannot have their cake and eat it too. Either the Holy Spirit gifts women to publicly pray and publicly proclaim the word and works of God (Acts 2:17, 18; 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:5) or He does not (according to the misinterpreted 1 Timothy 2:12). We prefer to agree with the Holy Spirit who explicitly states through St Peter that He gifts women as well as men to the proclaiming of the word and works of God than complementarians who promote a demeaning, degrading, and dehumanizing perspective of women created in the image of God.

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J. Lee Grady, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women: How the Bible Has Been Misused to Keep Women in Spiritual Bondage (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 2006), 34.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.