Dear Aebi ...

An Examination of Some Rationalizations

Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: "Why do some churches of Christ now have women preaching and leading in worship?

Some reasons women advocates give are based on their assumptions that passages referring to women teaching must mean teaching in the public worship assembly. Some reasons they give are also based on attempts to eliminate principles by ruling them "cultural." In this article we want to note six other rationalizations given.

(1) They say we must allow women to lead in worship, or they will go elsewhere where they can. This is the argument used about many changes in worship and practice that we must change to keep up with the times, or the young people or the singles or the seniors will go to some other church where they can be entertained. In response, we must ask, are our women devoted to the Lord, or to their own pride and self-image? This argument demeans Christian women (or Christian young people, or whatever group it uses) as self-seeking.

(2) They reason that if women can participate in Bible class, they also can lead in public worship. We answer that Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 refers to "the whole church assembling"(verse 23) and requires women not to be speakers in that assembly (verses 33-34). Even in Bible classes, women are not permitted to be teachers over men (1 Timothy 2:12).

(3) Advocates of women leading in worship sometimes say that 1 Timothy 2:11-12 allows women to preach, teach, lead singing, or lead prayer as long as they do not usurp authority over men. (Some go even farther and insist that women have as much authority as do men to preach or otherwise lead; this statement is made without citing any Scripture.) But "usurp authority" in KJV of 1 Timothy 2:12 is an improper translation. ASV has "have dominion over." NKJV, NIV, and RSV translate it "have authority over." The Greek verb is authenteo and is defined by lexicons as "to have authority over." "Usurping" is not the issue; "having authority over" is the issue, as in 1 Corinthians 11:3.

(4) It is declared that women have as much (sometimes more) ability to lead as men; to deny them that is a waste of talent (women-power), and is to devalue women as inferior and under men's authority; and if we don't allow women to preach, teach, lead prayer, and lead singing, the church loses. We answer that to be under another's authority does not mean one is inferior or of less value. Children are not inferior to parents; wives are not inferior to husbands, nor citizens to governors, nor employees to employers. Women-power is more effectively used in personal evangelism, training children, and the thousand other things that women do so well. "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world" is no idle truism. As to the church losing, the church loses her identity if we don't abide by the New Testament pattern.

(5) One women's advocate insisted that Jesus wanted the women he taught to go on to authoritative leadership positions in the church. As proof, he cited the declarations of a woman theological seminary teacher, but no Scripture, of course, for there is none. The same source said that the 1st century church had female apostles, elders, and deacons. Again, no Scripture given!

(6) Some say that Paul was just a crusty old bachelor who disliked women, and that he limited women as Jesus did not. The answer to this is that Paul said he was speaking the commandment of the Lord - 1 Corinthians 14:37. One who believes in the inspiration of Scripture will not array Paul against Jesus. This kind of argument shows that those who would put women into leadership positions in the church's worship do not have a high regard for Scripture. 2660 Layman Rd., Vincent OH 45784.


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