February 21, 2024

Exceptions are Not the Rule

In order to rightly divide the Word of Truth, one of the rules that someone faithful to the text must employ is to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. This leads to a lot of proof texting and attempts to find passages or single verses that disprove the main thesis.

Nowhere is this more prevalent today than the current hot button issue of women in ministry– specifically in the preaching ministry of a local church or at a conference of men and women.

One of the common lines of defense for this practice is that throughout the Bible there are women that are referenced with a leadership role. We all know their names– there’s Deborah which had to goad Barak into battle, Abgail that stood in the gap for her boor of a husband Nabal, Junia or Chloe or other women who had churches in their house and were addressed by Apostles and such.

The Arguments

So, let’s start with the proposed rule that is at question here:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man;
rather, she is to remain quiet.

1 Timothy 2:12 (ESV)

This isn’t the only passage, finding somewhat the same concept in 1 Corinthians 14, but you get the idea– Paul is telling Timothy that in the churches that he has set up and when he is there he expects that women/wives will remain quiet and not exercise authority over man. If you connect this with the teachings regarding the Pastor/Bishop/Shepherd/Overseer being the husband of one wife, you get the modern Complementarian view that a woman cannot teach men1.

The other side of this argument will point to 1 Corinthians 11 and state that the context is in church and a woman could pray and prophesy in church as long as she had her head covered– though none of the women that preach today cover their heads, which I find interesting. They will also bring out the argument that is the point of this post, that God uses women from time to time to bring his message and lead, and if he does so at his choosing, why can’t [insert famous woman speaker here] do it as well?

The Problem with the Argument

But there’s an inherent problem here. The Bible has something to say if the woman is in leadership– it’s a problem and a sign of a weak nation or grouping. It’s saying that Deborah was ruling in a time where God didn’t have a man to rule. It’s saying that Lydia or Junia or whomever was leading because there was an absence of qualified male leadership, not that women should be chosen to lead over men.

And to make it more clear, we see consistently through out Scripture that God regularly uses the exceptions to make a point, not that we should change the rule:
– God used a talking donkey to correct a false prophet
– A Big fish swallowed a prophet to correct him
– A virgin bore a son
– Jerico’s walls fell the wrong way
– The flood covered the whole earth

And that’s not even to mention the appearances of angels and Christ. So to say that Deborah is a sign that God approves of women rulers over men ignores that fact that elsewhere in Scripture it says that it is an insult for a women to rule. To say that a woman is a deacon or a member of high standing does not tell who else was in the house. To say that a woman may be able to prophesy and that means that she can have a church leadership position neglects to take into account that she may be prophesying somewhere outside of the church proper, and should do so with a head covering (1 Cor 11).

We must be consistent between rules given, and allow exceptions to be the exceptions, instead of allowing them to make the rule.

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  1. whether the text supports it or not, this is the viewpoint of the one side of this disagreement []

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