It is apparent that the Christian church is grappling with the issue of women’s roles in ministry. Many churches rely on conclusions not founded in Scripture as the basis for their policies. This article seeks to illustrate such inconsistencies and challenge each church to carefully examine the scriptures as the basis for their attitudes and policies regarding the contribution of women to the ministry of the local church.
The Bible sets forth an ideal and calls the ideal woman an eshet-chayil, which is the Hebrew for a “virtuous woman” (KJV) or a “wife of noble character” (NIV). This Hebrew expression occurs only three times in the Old Testament, but a study of these three passages is likely to reveal what the Bible supports as an ideal of Christian womanhood.
Where did judges like Deborah come from? We read in Acts 13:20-21 that the Israelites settled in Canaan and “After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people asked for a king....”
Equality and mutual submission between men and women is God’s ideal for humanity. But, some ask, do these work in a world ruled by power-hungry leaders, inequality and hierarchy? Do we not need strong leadership for a nation to prosper?
Proverbs depicts the reality of its day, but provides moral principles in the context of that reality that actually challenge many of its society’s ideals. Yet both the society and moral principles depicted in Proverbs provide an interesting contrast to many cultures before and after them.
Certainly today’s women have the right to choose their own forms of religious expression. However, they also have a right to understand the antecedents of those forms. Because various conference presentations and liturgies went beyond orthodox Christian faith and practice, we need to examine the historical roots of these so-called “new” ideas.
The best example of a woman in leadership over Israel is Deborah, one of the judges, all of whom were responsible for keeping the Promised Land free of foreign domination. Judges 4 is the prose account of Israel’s victory over the Canaanites from Hazor. Judges 5 is the “Song of Deborah” which tells the same story in poetic form.
The Old Testament teaches us much about the nature of God. It is the inspired record of God working out his eternal plan for us. From the Old Testament we learn about God’s long-suffering, loving, merciful nature. We see the beginning of his plan for our redemption. The God revealed to us in the Old Testament is the same God further revealed in the New Testament. Through Christ, we can see the promises of God more clearly than those who “welcomed them from a distance” (Heb. 11:13). Furthermore, in this era of God’s history, the Holy Spirit dwells in all who belong to his Son (Rom. 8:9). However, God is still the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We need to remember this truth as we study the Old Testament.
Who says dual leadership won’t work?? Who says some one person has to make the ultimate decision? This is not a “truth” that I find explicitly stated in Scripture, nor is it one that has panned out in real life in every case. I would suggest that it is in the category of “old-husbands’ tales” that have been taken as gospel truth for far too long.
Evangelical egalitarians often argue that the biblical writers were progressive in their day. It may therefore be helpful to survey some male views about women in the general period in which the New Testament was being written. We should keep in mind that the New Testament writers were not the only progressive voices in their culture; they were, however, among the more progressive rather than the repressive.