Recently a friend asked me what I thought about women being pastors (or co-pastors) of churches, and what to make of the practice of Christians speaking in tongues in the middle of a church service. These are controversial questions, so I’m sure my comments will step on some toes. But hey, even if we disagree, can’t we all just get along?
Here is what I wrote to my friend.
- Women pastors. This is an easy one (in my opinion). Paul explicitly spells out his list of qualifications for pastors, elders, and deacons (pastors are in many ways equivalent to elders; this can be demonstrated by a Biblical study of the words for pastor, elder, and bishop, but that’s another question altogether). 1 Timothy 3 (see 1 Tim 3:2, 11-12) and Titus 1 (see Tit 1:5-6) are clear that church overseers(=elders) should be the husband of one wife. Furthermore, there is no indication from the Bible (OT or NT) that there were ever any women pastors. Not until recent years historically has the case been made for women pastors, and this has been a post-Enlightenment development. Basically only theological liberals and feminists have tried to argue that women can be pastors, and these folks consciously admit to restructuring Christianity and the church for changing modern times. Those committed to the Bible as Sola Scriptura (the only standard) have rarely even considered that women can be pastors in the church. Some evangelical Christians do believe women can be pastors, but my experience is that they rarely attempt a theological case; they just do it and say “why not”? Now lest I sound misogynist, I believe (along with my seminary professor on this) that a woman can do ANYTHING in the church that a non-ordained man is permitted to do. Women are not less gifted in any way. Yes, they are made female and are thus differently made than males, but it is less a question of constitutional makeup/nature than it is about God-ordained familial roles in the family of God (the Church).
- Speaking in tongues. This is a much more difficult question, since Bible-believing Christians differ on the legitimacy of prophecy and tongues for today. Although I’m firmly convinced from Scripture and personal experience that prophecy and tongues were present in the NT by the work of the Holy Spirit but have ceased as “gifts” since the ending of the apostolic era of the Church, I’m much more willing to accept disagreements on this issue. Read and study Lee Iron’s summary of cessation arguments for a good overview to the cessationist position. On a side note, I’ve heard and read that no one believes anymore the old arguments that prophecy and tongues aren’t for the Church today. That’s a bunch of hooey. It’s either ignorance due to people needing to get out more and learn that the Church is not confined to their particular experience of it, or the fallacy of poisoning the well by ridiculing a position instead of arguing against it.
Here are a couple of web sites and books for further study. Feel free to disagree in the comments, but please no flames or name calling. Let’s have more light–less heat.
Perspectives on Pentecost, by Richard Gaffin. This small book is considered the best argument for the cessation of the NT “sign gifts”.
The Church, by Edmund Clowney. This book is a great introduction to many questions people have regarding the Church. It has chapters on women in the chuch and also on prophecy and tongues.
Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever. This is a great book to read for those looking for a new church and wondering how to evaluate churches.
9Marks Ministries. Devoted to healthy church life and questions people have about church.
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Comprehensive website helping the Church deal with gender issues.