December 1, 2020

Public Scripture Reading: The Sublime and the Ridiculous

UPDATE: Thanks to Mike Bell, who alerted us to this follow-up article by Tim Challies in which he explains his stance. I’m still not buying it.

• • •

Anyone who worships in a liturgical church and folks in every tradition that values the place of Scripture in corporate worship will find some points to appreciate in the article by neo-Calvinist blogger Tim Challies on The Public Reading of Scripture.

For liturgical types like me, corporate worship equals Word and Table. So, if scripture and sacrament are at the heart of what it means to worship God and receive the benefits of the Gospel for the church gathered, we ought to be concerned about how we speak the Word and how we offer the Meal.

When it comes to the Word, this includes not only preaching but other elements, such as reading the Bible in public. I agree with Challies when he says, “Reading Scripture is not something we do out of duty or obligation, but something we do in delight, trusting that it is a means by which the Lord blesses, pursues, convicts and draws. To stand at the front of a church and read the Bible is to stand in the place of God and proclaim his Word.”

Therefore, argues Challies, churches should prepare people to read Scripture well. His own congregation has “a Scripture Reading Ministry—a ministry of those who are specially trained and equipped to read the Word of God and to read it well.”

He offers the following fine examples of what they train people to do:

  • Seek to understand the passage, its genre, tone, and basic meaning.
  • Practice reading it aloud and work through difficult words, names, etc.
  • Read through it on Sunday morning, and have it marked in your Bible so you are prepared.
  • Be aware of practical considerations such as your appearance, the microphone you will be using, your posture and the pace of your voice when reading.
  • Avoid common mistakes: (1) speaking too fast, (2) not enough preparation, (3) “preacher” voice, (4) speaking too quietly, (5) speaking with too little or too much feeling, (6) letting your voice trail off after a strong start, (7) speaking without a sense of confidence – as a herald.

These are wonderful, practical suggestions. I have heard a lot of bad Scripture reading in my life (some of it my own), and I think these suggestions can help both pastors and congregation members as they seek to read the Scriptures in public more effectively.

Unfortunately, Challies is going to get a lot more attention for a sentence in the beginning of his post that, in my view, sets forth a completely unnecessary restriction on this ministry“We consider this a teaching ministry, which means that it is a ministry reserved for men.”

Oh boy.

I think Scot McKnight answers Challies well, saying, “Anyone who says reading Scripture is a teaching ministry is just making stuff up. Reading is reading and teaching is teaching, and preaching is preaching, and prophesying is prophesying, but reading is not teaching, preaching or prophesying. Women were prophets, women were apostles, women were teachers – this is all in the New Testament. That more than qualifies them for the public reading of Scripture.”

This complementarian “fencing of the altar” continues to make no sense whatsoever to me. First of all, I think the complementarian view itself is based on a misreading of Scripture. Furthermore, I cannot agree with the interpretation upon which this restriction is based: that what the NT prohibits is “authoritative teaching” by women. This comes from a reading of 1Timothy 2 which I find problematic. But we’re not going to get into that here.

Beyond those foundational disagreements, I can’t help but think that drawing lines like this will raise all kinds of practical questions about where and how such lines should be drawn.

  • Can a woman sing a solo that “teaches” Biblical truth or quotes Biblical texts?
  • Can women participate in choirs or ensembles that sing such songs?
  • Can a woman give a testimony publicly, sharing Bible verses by which God helped her? Is that teaching?
  • Is the restriction on public Scripture reading only for public worship, or does it apply to classes? Can I, as a teacher, ask a woman in my mixed gender Bible class to read a passage from the Bible out loud, for the class to hear?
  • Can women read the Bible aloud in their small groups if men are present?

I took a course from Walt Liefeld in seminary. His wife was from Plymouth Brethren background, and she was a widow of one of the five missionaries killed by Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956. Wherever she went after those dramatic events, Christians wanted to hear her story. But in the Brethren churches, women were not allowed to speak in front of the congregation. So they worked out a compromise. She could share her testimony over a microphone, but she had to be hidden from sight, behind a screen or in the next room! That is the kind of silly solution our false restrictions can lead us to adopt.

Women should be allowed to read Scripture publicly. Restricting women from doing so has no theological foundation and will only lead to a lot of overscrupulous nonsense in practice.

All who do read Scripture in public, men and women alike, will benefit from the rest of Tim Challies’ article.


  1. So at Chalies’ church, Mary would not be allowed to read her own Magnificat??

    • Steve, that is exactly what I was thinking as I read through this!

      No, a man must read it. Or rather, sing it. In soprano.

      • WenatcheeTheHatchet says

        Well, seeing as Jeff Buckley died more than a decade ago a man singing a Magnificat setting isn’t too likely. The one guy I’ve heard of sing who could have hit those soprano notes passed on.

        And since the Magnificat reflects a debt to Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel Hannah is out, too. Miriam wouldn’t have been allowed to make any song after the Exodus because a suitable male musician had not yet been found. The woman at the well whom Jesus met wouldn’t be able to tell people about Jesus, either, because that would be teaching men, wouldn’t it?

        Time to bring back the castrati then, since that’s why churches set them up as an outworking of no women having any risk of a “teaching” role. Of course the castrated boys won’t be allowed to marry or have marriages recognized as acceptable because the purpose of marriage is procreation and a man who has had his testicles crushed was barred from participating in bits of Temple worship.

        Of course if we work on the assumption that Mary and Hannah and Miriam and Deborah never wrote any songs and that the songs were forged on their behalf by men … .

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        No, a man must read it. Or rather, sing it. In soprano.

        That can be arranged. Or rather, manufactured. With a 99% failure rate.

        Ever heard of a Castrato?

    • Steve in Toronto says

      And people wonder why after two or three generations Calvinist communities have either burned out or mellowed out beyond recognition. Can you image the lessons that young people are learning in such churches how on earth will these kid learn to relate to members of the opposite sex who grew up out side there “truly reformed” bubble.

  2. Challies has a follow up article which is also worth reading, and to which I added some comments last week.

  3. This kind of biblicism makes our God into a much smaller god.

    The Word will make it’s own way, no matter the gender of the mouth it comes out of.

  4. Here’s a great explanation connecting orders of creation to Christ’s relationship to the church, using Ephesians 5.

    By pushing women into leadership roles, the church destroys the symbol in creation and marriage of women being joyful receivers of men’s service; just as the church joyfully receives Christ’s service on the cross. That model of women as joyful receivers is found throughout Scripture. Mary dutifully obeyed where Eve did not. That role is not better or worse than the male role of serving and sacrificing for the woman. Where Adam abandoned his role, Christ took it up and served and sacrificed himself for the church.

    Folks who take offense and find being receivers to be less worthy than servers and sacrificers are not looking to Scripture. Christ himself receives everything from the Father. He will judge us on whether we are receivers of his gifts or relying on our own doings.

    Comments claiming that there is “no theological foundation” for limiting reading of the Word is simply to close one’s eyes to the Word, to creation, and to 2000 years of church tradition.

    Liberal lutherans start from the wrong baseline. You start with modern rejection of gender roles, despite Scripture being crystal clear that there are gender roles: men serve, women receive. This is the issue that conservative Lutherans constantly have with the liberal Lutherans. Because its hard to sometimes draw a line, the liberals draw no line at all and just abandon all of the Scripture that clearly shows there is a line.

    I say all this as one who thinks women publicly reading is maybe okay, but not ideal, given the false theology it suggests. Better to avoid the issue altogether. The question I have is why have lay readers at all? That’s what the pastor is trained to do. I don’t want my pastor to write my will or fix my car, so why would I want my mechanic or lawyer to try to read Scripture? I’ve seen it in a lot of congregations and it feels like amateur hour. It then avoid the whole issue.

    • Oh Boaz, where do I begin?

      “Pushing women into leadership roles” — by reading Scripture?

      Mary took the role of joyful receiver? Yes, but she also spoke Scripture (the Magnificat), thus preparing the way for what Luke records happened at Pentecost — “your daughters shall prophesy”.

      And who said being a “receiver” is less worthy than being a “server”? You did not hear that from me. And don’t tell me that is an “implication” of what I said. Respond to what I said, please.

      And thanks for the potshot at “liberal lutherans” who “start from the wrong baseline.” Did you note the baseline from which I started? Quote: “First of all, I think the complementarian view itself is based on a misreading of Scripture.” We may differ on our interpretation, Boaz, but don’t set up a straw man argument and claim that I am basing my view on something other than Scripture when I plainly claim to be doing otherwise.

      “Why have lay readers at all”? And why have parents catechize their children? And why let people have Bibles in their hands at all? Because we had a Reformation to put the Bible back into the people’s hands, that’s why. As for “amateur hour,” that is the very thing Challies is trying to correct, and I commend him for it. The answer is not greater restriction on the laity, it’s the pastor doing his or her job to equip them.

    • Boaz said: “By pushing women into leadership roles, the church destroys the symbol in creation and marriage of women being joyful receivers of men’s service”

      On a practical matter, Boaz, if we don’t push women into leadership roles we’ll have to tap into that great unharvested reservoir of men, lining up from blocks away to volunteer for Sunday School and Children’s Church. And to run VBS. And teach at Baptist Youth Camp.

      [raises hand in shame, with head down… guilty as charged…]

      • One more Mike says

        Well said, Ted. I’ve seen too many times when the church I grew up in would have folded if women hadn’t taken leadership roles, held arrogant, bull headed men to account, and taught me in Sunday school, VBS, etc until I was in my twenties. I’ve seen the type of mental gymnastics, demonstrated so well for us by Boaz, performed when men decided to take leadership or “headship” (?), and try to put women “back in their place”. This never turns out well, the sword fighting ensues and eventually praying, devoted women clean up the blood and keep the doors open and the lights on. Just like the early church immediately following the crucifixion.

      • I would like to know…does this change salvation for a women? Can women be Christians or are they also led by their husbands if they are to submit? Does salvation for a woman come through her marriage? This type of theology that the hyper’s push seems to make marriage an idol. Plus I’d suggest that its intellectually lazy. Black and white thinking goes no-where. Where does a widow fit in? A single Mom who is divorced? A single female dealing with homosexuality? Perhaps even a single woman who never married? In this case does the man take the role of God especially in a marriage?

        Am I off base for asking these questions or do others get these vibes as well.

    • What intrigues me about Mr. Challies’ explanation is that it is based on St. Paul’s epistle about not permitting women to teach or have authority over men.

      So what springs to mind for me is how then do women fit into the work of evangelisation? If a woman cannot read Scripture in a church service, does that mean that she is not to read Scripture aloud to a group including men? That she should not engage in evangelising or missionary work because that involves teaching?

      Okay, from a Catholic point of view, during Mass the Gospel reading is always and only reserved to the priest (or an ordained deacon if one is participating). Laymen as well as laywomen cannot read the Gospel or preach the homily.

      What is interesting (and what I didn’t know before I started looking for Catholic guidelines for lectors) is that there can be two kinds of lectors: insituted lectors Iwho are men only) and non-instituted lectors (men or women).

      Now, from the Catholic practice, I understand why this is; the reservation of the ordained sacramental ministry to men only and the celebration of the Mass – the Diocese of Atlanta guidelines for training lectors have a fascinating short overview of how minor orders were replaced by two orders of lector and acolyte – but what is problematic to me in what Mr. Challies is saying about practice in his local church is how does that fit in with Reformation principles of putting the vernacular Bible into the hands of the laity, non-sacramental ministry, and the priesthood of all believers?

      Just for comparison purposes with what Mr. Challies says about proclaiming the Word (and leaving out vexed questions of complementarity), here are Irish guidellines for lectors.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      By pushing women into leadership roles, the church destroys the symbol in creation and marriage of women being joyful receivers of men’s service…

      BAD choice of words. Maybe I’ve spent too long in Furry Fandom, but when I read “women being joyful receivers of men’s service” my first thought was sex. “Plowing the field”, “Handmaid’s Tale”, and all that. But in that case, isn’t it the female who “services” the male?

      • And where is there anyone who is “pushing women into leadership roles” in the church? All I see is either women being allowed into leadership roles, or complementarians actively pushing women OUT of leadership roles.

        Sorry, boaz, but your straw man just fell over …

      • Headless, isn’t it the stallion that services the mare when he stands at stud?

        Yes, country people’s minds go to different places than intended when you use that kind of language.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Headless, isn’t it the stallion that services the mare when he stands at stud?


          Yes, country people’s minds go to different places than intended when you use that kind of language.

          City boyz too; it helps if you have a dirty mind.

      • Actually, it is not so illegitimate that one’s mind goes there. Many times, people have imagined that social roles of the sexes mirror a biological role: woman as receiver, field, etc., who is passive and acted upon. The words chosen carry this connotation, however they are meant.

    • Boaz —

      Boaz —

      Though, as I say elsewhere, I’m a mild completmentarian, I have to take issue on a practical level with your statement that women are to receive and men are to serve. I’m not interested in interpreting serving and receiving in some extreme theological fashion, but in everyday life I (a woman) serve all the time. And male human beings accept and are grateful for my service — students in my college classes, my husband, my brothers, my friends. And at the same time these men serve me, and I receive with gratitude all the sacrificial, practical love they show me. It seems to me that this picture of the Christian life — serving and receiving in all directions, as it were — is a much better image of the Trinity, of the God of Love whose image we are to grow into. Of course no one of us can reflect all aspects of the Trinity, and sometimes differences in reflection are caused by gender — but saying that women’s role is not to serve! Tell that to Mary Magdalen, and Peter’s mother-in-law, and Dorcas, and — and — and . . .

    • Richard Hershberger says

      “Liberal lutherans start from the wrong baseline. You start with modern rejection of gender roles, despite Scripture being crystal clear that there are gender roles: men serve, women receive.”

      Well, sure: if you are willing to be carefully selective about which bits of Scripture you like, read that, and ignore all the awkward other bits of Scripture. Oh, and be sure not to forget to direct condescension at anyone who takes into account those awkward bits of Scripture we are supposed to quietly overlook, since knowing which bits count and which don’t is the hallmark of seriousness.

      “This is the issue that conservative Lutherans constantly have with the liberal Lutherans. Because its hard to sometimes draw a line, the liberals draw no line at all and just abandon all of the Scripture that clearly shows there is a line.”

      I don’t presume to speak for liberal Lutherans, but I personally have an issue with anyone who is perpetually confused about the distinction between Scripture and his own interpretation of Scripture.

    • Randy Thompson says

      Many years ago, someone made the point that the New Testament doesn’t create a family “order” but addresses one that’s already there–one that involved slavery, by the way. Ephesians 5 must be read in the context of Ephesians 5:21, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is the practical application, if you will, of Jesus’ teaching about being poor in Spirit, gentle (or meek) and losing one’s life to gain it.

    • I’m late to this post, but of the female pastors I know, I don’t believe any of them would say they were “pushed” into leadership, unless the pusher was the Holy Spirit. I believe they all would say they were called, and to not follow that call, well, it would be disobedient. I for one don’t want to stand in their way.

      The Challies piece is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen in a while. Despite the fact that publicly reading Scripture requires that one has a penis, it almost must be done in the correct tempo and inflection per Tim Challies’ impeccable tastes. Utter nonsense.

    • Liturgy = leitourgia = work of the people
      Not work of the men or work of the pastor only.

    • “By pushing women into leadership roles, the church destroys the symbol in creation and marriage of women being joyful receivers of men’s service; just as the church joyfully receives Christ’s service on the cross.”

      That is similar to:

      “By letting a woman clean the house/ prepare the food, the man destroys the symbol in creation and marriage of women being joyful receivers of men’s service; just as the church joyfully receives Christ’s service on the cross. ”

      Yet nobody say women should not cook or clean???

  5. I’ve discussed the role of women in the church elsewhere, and needn’t rehash it here. I’ll just point out that Challies’ conclusion is the gradual result when women are barred from one form of Christian service: It gradually shoves them out of all forms of Christian service, as men begin to build hedges of protection around the ministries they consider untouchable. It starts with women being unable to teach; it ends with women being unable to do anything, lest they get ideas.

    It is, IMHO, the opposite direction from the Kingdom.

    • Right or wrong, is it even possible, in your opinion, for a group to hold the opinion that ordained ministry is the ONLY thing reserved exclusively for men, provided they have a detailed theology of what work is exclusively reserved for the ordination?

      • Since God is really the one doing the ordaining (and our “ordination” is really just our recognition of His work) and since God has, several times in the scriptures, authorized women to preach and teach and prophesy and evangelize and perform the functions of deacon and elder, no.

        I realize that on this particular blog I’m swimming upstream. I grew up hearing all the same complementarian arguments. I held out for a long time against the egalitarian point of view, figuring that women can serve in any function so long that the senior leader of a church was male.

        Now, imagine yourself in a church where the women are obedient servants of God, but the men are not. (I doubt that’s a challenge.) None of the men meet the Pauline requirements of good character for leadership. None. Is it, even so, the will of God that the men take leadership by virtue of their Y chromosomes? Must one be a Levite before we lead worship? Did Jesus need to be a descendant of Aaron to be our high priest in heaven?

        No. Jesus is a new priesthood, like Melchizedek. His followers are a new priesthood under Him, where gender distinctions are celebrated instead of made into disqualifications. All of us can enter the Holy of Holies through the new way in Christ’s blood, (He 10.19-20) and what is the purpose of entering that place except to serve God and minister to one another?

        • Wow. I have never heard the egalitarian position argued Christologically. Well, it looks like I’m back on the fence again. Though it is worth mentioning, Jesus was at least male, if not Aaronic. That is where some argue for male headship of the church.

          • A question – in what sense was Jesus’ gender required to be male? I mean, obviously He *was* male, but then He had to incarnate with one gender or the other, didn’t He? (or did he… wait, that’s a musing for another time) Was Him being male a requirement of His divine nature, a matter of convenience for God’s plan or just a celestial coin-toss? Could the Incarnation have proceeded perfectly according to plan had Mary given birth to a girl called Rachel? (Yes, I know it wouldn’t have fulfilled some of the prophecies, but then the prophecies would have been different anyway if the Messiah were destined to be female)

            I find the argument that priests must be male because Jesus was male a little odd. Jesus was also a certain height, had a particular eye colour and had his own shoe size – surely we don’t need to emulate Him in every respect to be priests?

          • Miguel –

            Jesus IS the head of His Church. No one needs to stand in for him. They just need to be qualified to serve the people. Might I suggest doing a word study on “authority” and “male headship” in the NT. You might find it interesting.

          • Bridget: Very good point. Also a conclusion I came to; with Christ as our head, we all have male headship.

            Jack: I don’t believe Jesus had to be male in order to achieve our salvation, of course. But to function in the culture and preach the Kingdom, He would have been severely hampered had He been female. Might have been a great object lesson on how God uses the weak to confound the strong, but a female Christ might have been crucified before anyone ever learned that lesson. She wouldn’t have been able to preach in synagogue, teach male disciples, be listened to by the powers that be… In short, she’d have suffered the same fate as a woman in Tim Challies’s church.

  6. Just for the record, this complementarian (pastor of a confessional Lutheran parish) has no problems with women reading the lectionary texts or leading the congregation in public prayers…

    • Good, Tom. Because although I disagree with the complementarian viewpoint, you will note that the primary objections I stated in this post have to do with the application of the teaching, not the theology itself. Challies and his church are taking their complementarian views too far in practice.

    • Same with this mild complementarian, Tom. I appreciate CM’s point that a big issue is the interpretation of the word “teach.” Even assuming that women can’t teach (and I’m not going to undermine my profession and claim they can’t!) if reading Scripture were really “teaching,” then why would any church have a sermon? Once the (male) pastor got up and read from the Bible, teaching would be finished. Boy, that would shorten some of the extreme Reformed services!

    • Ditto, this complementarian pastor has more women readers than men.

      • I guess it also goes back to another question: when you take part to the liturgy (I mean, not as a pew-sitter) do you really exercice authority? Or are you serving? As far as I am concerned, when I preach, the only authority involved is the one of God and His Word.
        I remain a complementarian, but I sometimes wonder if some of us do not base their beliefs and practices on a purely sociological reaction to the evolution of gender-roles in our societies.

  7. As someone who both hates speaking in public and has been roped into acting as a lector for Mass at times, I heartily support Mr. Challies in this.

    I am just a poor, feeble woman. Let this kind of thing be reserved for big, strong, intelligent, manly men! I cannot see any reason to push myself forward like this so brazenly. I’ll just sit here at the back of the church while you do all the hard work 😀

    • Chaplain Mike – interesting article. I think the list of questions you pose is particularly helpful – revealing just how ridiculous it is to apply complementarian doctrine in this way because if you are following that line of application then the only logical answer to each of those questions is a resounding NO! Women would truly be silenced if that is the case, limited to the notices and the domestic. Sadly I have to conclude that is what many complementarian men are actually aiming for when they take such theology and apply it this extreme way.

    • Sorry Martha – managed to post my comment to Mike to you by mistake!
      BTW I, of course, share your view and Sundays would be so much more relaxing if all churches adopted this policy! 🙂

    • Men, men, men, men, manly-men, men, men, men,

      That’s a TV show over here, Martha. Just so ya know I’m not losing it…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Don’t forget —
        OY! OY! OY!”
        — from The Man Show, whose definition of “manhood” skipped past Mark Driscoll to the title of a Frank Zappa song.

    • Dan Crawford says

      I suspect that Martha proclaims the Scriptures quite well even when she is roped into it. In our Catholic Church, the best lectors are women who prepare the readings and reflect on them beforehand – the men, sad to say, tend to mumble and barely glance at the readings before the service. I appreciate it when I do not have to follow the text in the Missalettes but allow the lector to speak the Word.

      • My preparation has been – and this is genuine – walking into the porch of the church before Mass started, being grabbed by another member of the congregation, told “We’re short a reader, you’ll do the second reading, right? Great!” and that was me going “Oh, no!” internally but externally “Sure, of course!”

        God bless the nuns, because they made us all do the readings at school Masses regardless of nerves or shyness, and that stood to me because afterwards I got compliments on how well I had done the reading. I’m telling you, we need more old-fashioned nuns in education because they prepare you for anything.


    • Martha: in my mind this picture popped up…

      you trying to wrestle that big, heavy, illustrated bible to the lector stand & fumbling thru the heavy pages to the assigned Epistle or Old Testament reading…

      sweating from the exertion & out-of-breath as you finally get thru the reading…

      and then sitting down in exhaustion from the effort wondering where all those ‘manly men’ are when you need one! 🙂

      ha! as a former Lector i did not enjoy the opportunity as much as at my recent church where i enthusiastically read the scripture when it was my turn. and those that read the scripture included teenagers & us older folk, both genders. some readers suffered from stage fright, some rushed thru, some were monotone, some mispronounced words/names, etc. but the inclusion of all those that volunteered to read scripture part of the faith community expression we were…

      • Ah, we Catholics have a cunning plan to deal with that, Joseph. We have lectionaries already in place on the ambo, so us delicate fragile female flowers don’t have to sweat and struggle our way up onto the altar 🙂

        Of course, in my parish church, it’s the chapelwoman who makes sure the lectionary is out on the ambo before Mass, but the point remains: women, know your place!


  8. James Bedford says

    The point is not that women are deficient in any way. The point is that it is inappropriate for woman, whose role is by nature subordinate, to represent God’s sovereign majesty.

    • Aidan Clevinger says

      I really don’t think the New Testament gave us rules for who can read Scripture in a public assembly. No matter how you interpret Paul’s instructions on allowing women to teach, you’d have to jump through hoops to make them say anything about women participating as lectors.

    • Now, you see James, I absolutely disagree with your reading of Scripture. “Woman, whose role is by nature subordinate” is not how I read Genesis 1-2, which portrays woman as a full and equal partner in God’s calling to extend his blessing to all the earth. Nor does it represent the teaching of redemption, which is plainly stated in Acts 2 and Galatians 3. In Christ, no male or female.

      But to argue this here is to miss the main objection I set forth in the post. Even if one takes a hierarchical or complementarian view of male/female, drawing a line at Scripture reading is not appropriate. It goes beyond the complementarian theological stance, is unnecessary, and impractical.

      Aidan is correct.

      • Thanks, Chap Mike.

        I wanted to respond to James, but why would a man who believes a woman, whose role is by nature subordinate, and is unable to represent God’s sovereign majesty listen to anything I might have to say?

    • Although Genesis does not support the view of women being subordinate at all – quite the opposite – I’m not going into that unsubstantiated statement because this is not what the article is about but what I can’t let pass is your statement that God’s sovereign majesty can only be represented by men! Where on earth did you get that from?
      Haven’t you realised yet that the sovereign majestic God we worship delights – absolutely LOVES – to demonstrate who he is through the weaknesses we have? (2 Cor 12: 9). In fact, according to your own theology if women are indeed subordinate to men, then it would be more appropriate that they represent God’s sovereign majesty than men! Your idea of what is appropriate does not seem to align itself with God’s idea. I guess it was highly inappropriate for God to be born out of a woman as well without the aid of a man. Whoops! God really should have known better to have allowed himself to emerge from the messiness of a human birth – after all, that’s women’s stuff!
      Women spoke scripture into being! Should Mary have kept quiet and not spoken text into the Bible with her song of praise? Or was it Luke who was in error to have included it in his gospel? Should the women who were the first proclaimers of the resurrection – indeed they were told to tell the men about it – kept quiet? Should all the authors of the gospels have suppressed what the women said?
      You present a sweeping statement about the nature of women based on an interpretation of Genesis whilst ignoring the factual evidence in the text itself that not only were women proclaimers of the Word but they also wrote some of it. It would be utterly ridiculous to say that they should not now read it in corporate worship.

    • David Cornwell says

      “woman, whose role is by nature subordinate”

      My wife, Marge, is so unsubordinate , so stubborn about it, so intelligent, and so creative. She makes me very proud to be around. What a sinner!

    • James Bedford says

      You’re all turning this into some sort of joke. Think about it–is it appropriate or dignified for God to be dominated or penetrated by man? No! Rather the opposite. Symbolism therefore demands that he be represented by a man.

      Also, the man must be able-bodied and without blemish. Not because the handicapped or deformed are inferior, but because the point is to represent and honor God, who is perfect.

      A woman should discuss these things with her husband, and submit to his loving correction.

      • Strongly disagree, James. But that’s OK. I’m glad you weighed in.

      • there are so many crude & obscene jokes that could be made from that post , james…

      • Well, okay, I am a woman that you consider to be subordinate by nature and unable to represent God’s sovereign majesty, but…..

        Was it not dignified or appropriate for Christ to be pierced? Did he cease to be God while he was degraded and abused?

      • Actually, James, I used to roll my eyes at feminists that talk so much about “rape culture”. But after reading your last post, I will have to concede that they must have a point.

      • “Also, the man must be able-bodied and without blemish.”

        Is there anything in Scripture that claims that in order to represent God on earth, Christ would be need to be incarnated, not just as a human, but as an excellent specimen of manhood?

        Also — Christ could not have identified himself with the lame or ill or poor? He was the most handsome man in town, an excellent athlete, a Greek demi-god among men?

        Also, the logical corollary to this line of argument is troubling: Can only people whose gender/race/physical abilities/etc truly represent Christ, since Christ privileged that group by taking on particular characteristics in his person?

        • James Bedford says

          The part about not having any blemish is from the Old Testament temple times.

          Although Christ was called Jewish (not like the Pharisees, but like the Jewish prophets), it is not necessary to be Jewish, because true Israel is the church. Nor is it necessary to have a beard, because today beards have a different meaning than they did in Bible times.

          When they pierced Christ, they mocked him. A woman preacher is this same kind of mockery. Think about it–why did Mary have to be a virgin? Because Christ is not born from impurity. (I mean the filth of sexual intercourse, which a woman receives inside her from her husband,) Talk about “rape culture”! When you let a woman speak in church, you are in effect raping Christ.

          • James-

            All I’m going to say is this:
            The filth of sexual intercourse? Seeing as that is the means by which a person is conceived, and that it is a natural act of the body, and that all this was put in place by Almighty God, to call it “filth” is rather insulting.

          • Well, yes, they mocked Christ. I don’t think that I asked the right question, James.

            Was Jesus less than God when he was dominated and pierced?

            I have another, since I find your conversation to be very interesting.

            Is it wrong for you to answer me or Danielle, since you have already informed us to ask our husbands? I don’t know Danielle, but I do have a husband. I’m sorry if I sound snarky – I don’t mean to. I’m rather fascinated by this conversation.

          • Another question, if you please, James. If filth, as you say, comes from the man, what sense does it make for a man to “represent and honor God, who is perfect”?

          • One more and then I’ll try to stop. Is it appropriate for God, who is perfect, to be represented by a domineering and penetrating (penetrative?) man? Is that the image of God that you have, James?

          • James Bedford, you actually said two things I agree with.

            ” it is inappropriate for woman, …, to represent God’s sovereign majesty.”
            It is equally inappropriate for men to do so!
            We humans are not sovereign. Any who try to act like they are, is breaking what Christ said about lording it over others.

            “is it appropriate or dignified for God to be dominated …? No!”
            Perhaps this is the startings of an argument for something else: What you did to the least of these, you did to Christ. What you did not to the least, you did not to Christ. (Mat 25:40;45) Dominate your wife? Dominate your children? You dominate Christ! How inappropriate!

            And then James B quotes I disagree with.

            ” the filth of sexual intercourse, which a woman receives inside her from her husband”
            So you are implying that men are filthy 100% of the time, as that stuff a woman receives during intercourse is always in them? And women cannot preach because a little sperm makes us impure? You don’t have to worry about listening to me though, James. I’m still a virgin and never had sperm in me. Unlike you, of course.

            “No, no”, you would probably protest,” it’s not the sperm that makes filthy, but the being penetrated.” Okay, in that case men make filthy. Whe, then, would we want the church to be led by people who make impure what they touch? They will only make the church filthy.

            “When you let a woman speak in church, you are in effect raping Christ.”
            When letting a man speak in church, are you raping Christ’s bride?

          • …..”the filth of sexual intercourse”………


            I always thought that marital intimacy and the sex act and all it entails was a sacred expression of a gift God gave to His creation.

            Guess I’ve been wrong. Thanks for enlightening me………

          • That has to be one of the most…uh…interesting interchanges we’ve had on IM for awhile. Frankly, I was too stunned to moderate any of it!

          • Okay, that’s…unique.

            I’m going to address this matter of complementarianism, which seems to revolve around an extract from St. Paul’s epistle where the husband is the head of the wife, by pulling some quotes from Pope John Paul II’s 1998 Apostolic Letter “Mulieris Dignitatem” (The Dignity of Women):

            (1) Where the Pope suggests that, contrary to the view espoused above that the marital relationship is naturally one of male headship and female submission, this is rather an effect of the Fall upon the original human bond of Adam and Eve:

            “”He shall rule over you”

            10. The biblical description in the Book of Genesis outlines the truth about the consequences of man’s sin, as it is shown by the disturbance of that original relationship between man and woman which corresponds to their individual dignity as persons….Therefore when we read in the biblical description the words addressed to the woman: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3:16), we discover a break and a constant threat precisely in regard to this “unity of the two” which corresponds to the dignity of the image and likeness of God in both of them. But this threat is more serious for the woman, since domination takes the place of “being a sincere gift” and therefore living “for” the other: “he shall rule over you”. This “domination” indicates the disturbance and loss of the stability of that fundamental equality which the man and the woman possess in the “unity of the two”: and this is especially to the disadvantage of the woman, whereas only the equality resulting from their dignity as persons can give to their mutual relationship the character of an authentic “communio personarum”. While the violation of this equality, which is both a gift and a right deriving from God the Creator, involves an element to the disadvantage of the woman, at the same time it also diminishes the true dignity of the man. Here we touch upon an extremely sensitive point in the dimension of that “ethos” which was originally inscribed by the Creator in the very creation of both of them in his own image and likeness.”

            (2) The Letter to the Ephesians, the husband as ‘head’ of the wife as Christ is the ‘head’ of the Church, the Bridegroom and the Bride (emphases mine) – that marriage is not a matter of wifely submission to husbandly authority, but rather mutual submission of both spouses, and that men – as well as women – being part of the Church which is the Bride are ‘feminine’ in relation to Christ the Bridegroom (and therefore men also must submit to Christ in a ‘wifely’ manner):

            “The author of the Letter to the Ephesians sees no contradiction between an exhortation formulated in this way and the words: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife” (5:22-23). The author knows that this way of speaking, so profoundly rooted in the customs and religious tradition of the time, is to be understood and carried out in a new way: as a “mutual subjection out of reverence for Christ” (cf. Eph 5:21). This is especially true because the husband is called the “head” of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church; he is so in order to give “himself up for her” (Eph 5:25), and giving himself up for her means giving up even his own life. However, whereas in the relationship between Christ and the Church the subjection is only on the part of the Church, in the relationship between husband and wife the “subjection” is not one-sided but mutual.

            …From a linguistic viewpoint we can say that the analogy of spousal love found in the Letter to the Ephesians links what is “masculine” to what is “feminine”, since, as members of the Church, men too are included in the concept of “Bride”. This should not surprise us, for Saint Paul, in order to express his mission in Christ and in the Church, speaks of the “little children with whom he is again in travail” (cf. Gal 4:19). In the sphere of what is “human” – of what is humanly personal – “masculinity” and “femininity” are distinct, yet at the same time they complete and explain each other. This is also present in the great analogy of the “Bride” in the Letter to the Ephesians. In the Church every human being – male and female – is the “Bride”, in that he or she accepts the gift of the love of Christ the Redeemer, and seeks to respond to it with the gift of his or her own person.

            Oh, us crazy Catholics! 😉

        • Whoa. So, basically: you take ancient near eastern purity laws about bodily fluids to be the basis for understanding sexuality, gender roles, the incarnation, and the ability of an individual to represent Christ? I can kind-of, sort-of see what you are trying to do. But with all due respect, I think you are trying to interpret some very major and important ideas through a very peculiar lens. I can’t think off-hand of any tact in Christian theology or letter in New Testament that would really recommend this approach.

          All I can say is that I’m glad beards are not somehow involved. And I will now back tactfully out of the room…

          (BTW, great points, Dana and Retha.)

      • James said: “is it appropriate or dignified for God to be dominated or penetrated by man? No! Rather the opposite.”

        So, would it be proper for God, in your view, to be represented by a bossy female (not dominated) who is still a virgin?

        Or by a dominant female who uses objects to penetrate the submissive male in her life?

      • Here is a possible context for James B’s comments:

        I think James Bedford is following Steve Schlissel, who committed the remark on piercing quoted as comment 47 here:

        Steve is so self-centred, with the Bible twisted to serve his wants, that he apparently taught his daughter that she is his literal property, with God having to take a back seat to him in her life. ( “Daughters are Daddy’s girls in the objective sense, and this particular daughter rejoices in that truth. I am owned by my father…As strange as it may sound, in the peculiar relationship of the father and daughter, God, as it were, takes a back seat. “- Sarah Faith Schlissel.)

        If James is a fan of Steve S, it is no wonder that his argument come down to:

        “I see women as lower and myself as dominant. If God is represented by a woman, my sort will see Him as lower and themselves as dominant over God.”- James Bedford, paraphrased

        This type does make idols of men and put God, like women, below them.

  9. Coming soon to a fundagelical church near you!!! New standards of dress for females. Offically sanctioned by Mullah Omar and the Taliban 😉

    Enshallah…suicide bomber training will follow, combined with how to pilot 767’s. For the Young, restless and reformed the traget this time will be the John Hancock Tower in Chicago. For the glory of God!!! Also there is an immigration ministry that will assist helping people file papers to immigrate to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

    Allah Akbar!!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Don’t forget FGM and Honor Killings to keep them from getting Uppity.

      • And from now on, the women will be sequestered behind a screen in the back of the sanctuary, so the men can be up front with God without the distracting and evil influence of females.

        Anyone else starting to draw parallels between the extreme complementarian view and the Ferengi from DS9? Or is it just me?

    • Sorry Eagle.You can’t immigrate to Saudi. My 3 daughters were born there and don’t have citizenship. They won’t give it to non moslems

  10. In response to Tim Challis and his take on women… This should be pretty clear cut. Men just cannot lead others. They are sinful, wretched, and look at their history? Man turned Jesus over to Roman authorities, and they also denied Jesus after his resucrrection. Men are too sinful to speak at all, or be in positions of leadership. Also as a follow up to the above post, men might cause women to stumble and have lustful thoughts. Therefore men will be expected to abide by the new dress code above. Men make sure you wear your burlka to Sunday school, grocery shopping, etc..

    Top 10 Reasons Why Men Shouldn’t Be Senior Pastors

    10. A man’s place is in the army.

    9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

    8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

    7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

    6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

    5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

    4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

    3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

    2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

    1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take

  11. Things like this kept me in the mainline even though I’m an orthodox, classical, evangelical pastor theologically. The utter silliness of this…well, you & Scot have put it better than I can right now.

  12. You know…if you logically follow the tenets of Calvinism, all of it, neo- and otherwise…you will, inevitably, get such teachings as this (and within some of the comments). I spent 30 years of my life studying Reformed and Presbyterian doctrines. When I was a part of the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church), I was told that, as a Woman, I couldn’t sing solo in Worship as that was teaching (although both the Women playing piano and organ were fine). I could direct the Mixed Gender Choir, but the Session chose the music; I chose from their approved list. I could not pray aloud. I couldn’t speak in Sunday School except to ask a question…and that was only after my Husband died and the Elders took me “under care”. The teaching philosophy of the Session was to pitch it to the Men; they, in their turn, took it home and taught their Families. I, as a Widow, was…what? I never did get a coherent answer… The funny thing about all this is that within the Calvinist Community the issue isn’t supposed to be Male and Female but Elder and non-Elder. :sigh:

    I’ve long since left, having finally reached the end of my logical, innermost debates.

  13. Could you imagine how much easier the Cold War would have gone if Reagan had had a REAL LEADER (a man) in Britain helping him instead of that skirt- wearing Thatcher gal !

    • On Saturday night I went down into downtown Washington, D.C. and looked at the National Christmas tree and walked around and enjoyed the sites. They had a sign that talked about the history of the National Christmas tree and how Eisenhower re-started the tradition in the 1950’s Then in my mind this clicked. Christmas and faith has nothing to do with redemption and love -or a message of hope. In the context of the Cold War for many fundys the Bible, and holidays like Christmas became a weapon. A weapon against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Eastern Block. That’s what faith is about and for many and that’s why it has continually moved forward. Man…if for many faith is viewed in that context is it any wonder why many evangelicals need an enemy if the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991? Is that new enemy in the process of being found? Is it gays or women? Or is it agnostics like myself? Is it people who are single who aren’t spitting out 25 Bible believing born again fundys foaming at the mouth when and where they were saved? Is it mainstream Christians such as Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc? The neo-reforms are raping the Bible while they claim to be truer to it. The part I don’t get is why they are creating obstacles for people to worship god, if they so believe? Any type of faith that puts roadblocks in front of a person who wants to believe is down right discouraging.

      Give it a couple of generations but in the United States Christianity is going to be a spiritual version of the Donner Party. A hyper-Calvinistic cannibalistic movement that devours others while it devours itself.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        They had a sign that talked about the history of the National Christmas tree and how Eisenhower re-started the tradition in the 1950?s

        1) The Nifty Fifties as in The Godly Golden Age of Christian Culture Warriors where church attendance peaked?

        2) Wasn’t the phrase “Under God” added to the Pledge of Alliegance around the same time?

        A hyper-Calvinistic cannibalistic movement that devours others while it devours itself.

        1) What do predators eat after they kill off all the prey?

        2) And after they devour themselves, those mainstream liturgical churches will still be around, celebrating their liturgy over the liturgical year. Without any “Seven Day Sex Challenges” distracting from the feast of Christ the King.

      • Give it a couple of generations but in the United States Christianity is going to be a spiritual version of the Donner Party. A hyper-Calvinistic cannibalistic movement that devours others while it devours itself.

        It’s already happening in some corners between the hyper-calvinist types.

  14. This is why I could NEVER be an LCMS Lutheran.

    They pull the text off the page instead of pulling the gospel out of the text.

    It’s biblicism.

    No women pastors. Closed communion. “3rd use of the law”. Inerrant Bibles.

    No thanks.

    • To be fair, I could not (also) be in the ELCA, either.

      They have another problem. They have abandoned God’s Word in favor of newer and more generous words.

      There’s a big difference between disallowing someone with repect to God’s Word solely on the basis of their gender, and affirming someone’s sin and allowing that unrepentant sinner into the pulpit.

      The ELCA has MAJOR problems.

      But aside from these two ends of the (Lutheran) spectrum, there IS a middle ground.

      • Is it possible, when the only denomination that is “correct” enough for you is pitifully small and has no outpost within 200 miles of most people, that some of your non-negotiables are probably mis-prioritized? That’s the one thing that turns me off from micro-denominations: Many of them tend to have the ethos that they’re the only ones who have finally and truly got it right. It’s a far cry from the intellectual humility that drew me to the Lutheran tradition. I believe there are some areas in which we ought to be free to disagree (and yes, even the LCMS could loosten its grip on some of these). “True keeper of the flame” syndrome is the final push that led me away from the Calvinist traditions.

        • Big or small (numbers) doesn’t matter.

          The truth matters.

          A large denomination isn’t correct in setting up fences around the gospel anymore than a micro-denomination would be.

          And a large denomination that has no true doctrine of sin (anything goes), is sorely lacking in the gospel as well. You can’t have the gospel without repentance.

          Some of the breakaway denominations that have formed after the ELCA decided to ordain practicing gay pastors (and also because of the ELCA’s policy to have their new pastors ordained in the historic episcopacy) are numbering close to a thousand congregations. (FYI) Although, like I said earlier, it is more important to be faithful to the Word and forget about numbers.

          Thanks, Miguel

          • I agree that truth trumps popularity, but you sound remarkably similar to the biblicists when you put it that way. My point wasn’t necessarily that the true gospel would promote more successfulness in terms of numbers, but that the group might remain larger to lack of fracturing. Is there a hierarchy to truths where some are worth splitting hairs and others we agree to disagree? Repentance is non-negotiable. But the inerrancy crowd can be more tolerable than the far left simply because they agree that truth matters.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Ever notice that the de facto definition of Truth is “Exactly Like Me!”?

            I used to call this a “Truth? Whose Truth?” situation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          That’s the one thing that turns me off from micro-denominations: Many of them tend to have the ethos that they’re the only ones who have finally and truly got it right.

          The theoretical end state of Protestantism: Millions of One True Churches (all “founded by Jesus Christ in 33 AD”), each with only one member, each with The Only Correct Theology, each denouncing all the others as Heretics and Apostates. The original Internet Monk used to cite an “A.W.Pink” as a type example of this — apparently this A.W.Pink actually reached that end stage in his own Perfectly-Parsed Theology and spent every Sunday worshipping alone as a Church of One.

          • I’ve heard that this is known as “A.W. Pink syndrome”, and it infects leaders in all branches and flavors of Protestantism. I’m all for “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” The hard question is, what exactly is essential? Peripheral issues, such as inerrancy, getting into the central category are what cause fracturing, imo.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            So Pink actually had the syndrome named after him?

          • Not officially. It’s more of a jest than a clinical classification.

  15. This sort of thing just nauseates me. The fundamental issue is not biblical authority but control. Any position can be argued. Motivation should always be questioned. In this kind of teaching I must suggest that the motivating factor is pride and a desire to control people. Hedging practices in the church to this degree doesn’t comport with anything in scripture no matter how much it is spiritualized. Scott McKnight’s remarks are well-taken as are Michael Bell’s.

  16. Control is certainly a factor, but with many, many Christians it is a matter of their doctrine of the Word.

    Biblicism seems to emerge when you have a bible where every jot and tittle came wrapped up with a bow and floated down from Heaven.

    ‘In the beginning was the Bible. And the Bible was with God. And the Bible was God.’

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Dictated word-for-word by God, just like the Koran?

      Except in Kynge Jaymes Englyshe instead of classical Arabic?

      • No, don’t be SILLY. God just put these folks into a trance and guided their right right hands to write the correct message down!

        Then he went and created faux fossils and resin dinosaur bones to tempt the faithful away from “Bible TRUTH”….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          God just put these folks into a trance and guided their right right hands to write the correct message down!

          How does that differ from Automatic Writing a la Seth Speaks, OAHSPE, various UFO Contactee cults, and Aliester Crowley?

      • “Human wisdom is completely unreliable. There is only one source of reliable truth in the universe, and that is the Word of God…” – member of the mega church here in town.

        When i hear things like that i cannot help but think of the shahada when hearing that. or the recitation of Al-fatiha

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          That’s because it’s a direct Christianese copy from Mohammed abu-Hamid al-Ghazali, whose Incoherence of the Philosophers divorced Faith and Reason in Islamic theology. Faith and Reason (i.e. thinking) were mortal enemies and Faith Faith Faith must prevail.

          It’s best expressed in a Venn Diagram. Human wisdom/Knowledge is a subset of “reliable truth” (i.e. God’s Wisdom), while both al-Ghazali and the megachurch member you cited turn them into completely-separate sets, with no connection or overlap whatsoever.

          Not far from there to the idea that if an idea or course of action makes no sense whatsoever, It Must Be Of God.

          • ironic that without human reason , one couldn’t be reading the ESV bible sitting in front of them.

  17. I’ve gotta say, I have mixed feelings about this one. I am a complimentarian, but only on a very select few issues. I can’t bring myself to believe that it is ever sinful for anyone to read scripture in public or private. Posts like this do make it difficult to maintain any semblance of complimentarian conviction. In my church, the women do not typically read scripture, but not because of a ban. We’ve had a deaconess and Director of Christian Ed in training, both women, do readings before. But on any normal given Sunday, the elders do the reading simply because its their job to lead the congregation in worship. Not that others shouldn’t or can’t, but these officers assume the responsibility for it. And our elders are all men. So while I disagree with this in principle, in practice I’m not terribly different. But I don’t think its an appropriate response to have women read simply to spite this viewpoint. I think where scripture is silent (and it IS on this issue) we ought to allow more diversity of opinion. To me, the problem with both the complimentarian and egalitarian positions, on this and a wide variety of issues, is that we polarize too quickly and nobody is willing to consider any middle ground. Oh, and these issues are possibly the biggest hotbed for eisegesis, with proof-texting used as a weapon to advance political preferences.

  18. Charles Fines says

    Just to retrieve the baby from the bathwater, there is a world of difference between reading the Word and reading words, and the same text can be read either way. I almost think it does more damage having humans droning away than if a computer were to speak the text. Tho it does give opportunity for a quick power nap which many take advantage of.

    In my experience both men and women are capable of allowing Spirit to speak thru their reading, and both men and women can blow it badly. I am content to let those who argue beside that point follow their nose as long as I am not forced to participate.

    The bulleted recommendations for reading given by Challies are quite suitable for either men or women. I would add, before reading silently ask God’s blessing and keep your heart open.

    • Oh, I think you’ve hit on the best answer. Have a unisex computer do all the readings, sermon etc.

  19. The Word will make it’s own way.

    Regardless if a woman, man, Muslim, or atheist reads, or speaks it.

    • Or administers it (the visable Word, in the Sacraments.

      A Baptism in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit…though administered by an atheist…is still a good and valid Baptism.

  20. Richard Hershberger says

    In his follow up, Challies writes “It is my conviction that these words are meant to be read and understood in the simplest sense.” My experience is that whenever anyone begins a bit of exegesis this way, the discussion is over. There is no room for context or nuance. This is the problem with anyone who claims to read Scripture “literally” or taking its “plain meaning”. At that point anyone else who might have a different interpretation is taken as either simpleminded or a scoundrel.

    • Going off on another tangent, and leaving the vexed question of is reading the Scriptures a teaching role or an expository one or what, I get the impression – maybe erroneous? – from this particular post that this is a fairly new practice on the part of Mr. Challies’ church; I could be wrong, but that’s the impression I get: “Check out this amazing new thing we’re doing! Reading from the Scriptures in a service!”

      Those of us from liturgical backgrounds, on the other hand, are not so overwhelmed by the newness of the concept 🙂

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        It’s called “Reinventing the Wheel”, Martha.

        • Glenn A Bolas says

          ‘We call it the ‘Rotating Ring’. It’s a powerful new act of God, set to bring times of refreshing and revival to the lost and unchurched and….what? No, it has nothing to do with the bankrupt human tradition of the ‘Wheel’ with which those heretics over there have shackled the gospel!’

  21. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    My experience is that whenever anyone begins a bit of exegesis this way, the discussion is over. There is no room for context or nuance.

    Sort of the Born-Again equivalent of “Rome Hath Spoken; The Matter Is SETTLED”?

    • Right!

      The Koran says it, allah has spoken. Done.

      • Translation into fundagelical: God said it, I believe it, that settles it!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Translation into Marx-speak: Ees Party Line, Comrade!

          • ” i don’t listen to human interpretation of scripture , i simply read the word of GOD!” – member of local mega church…

            On facebook , this man refused to read an article about the nuances within the current homosexuality debate , because it is “human wisdom”. He only listens to the word of god….and the pastors exegesis of course 😛

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Didn’t the Ayatollahs and Talibani “simply read the Word of GOD”?

            A couple years ago, someone who worked Army Intel in Iraq told me about “The Wall in the Mind” he’d encountered interacting with Iraqis. (Didn’t mention which side his Iraqi examples were on.) He said no matter how educated they were, there was a point where “The Wall in the Mind” would slam down, after which there was only “IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN!”, recited word-for-word.

  22. A good argument, I think, for women in leading roles comes from the experience of the Church of England. When women were brought in as priests there was a huge amount of fuss: some predicted the downfall of the church, others a revolution. Absolutely nothing remarkable happened. Stuff went on with neither mass departures or mass attendances. The stereotype of the ‘friendly lady vicar with colourful jumpers’ was added to the stock character register and now people can’t even remember why it was an issue. It was so natural a change that it was practically no change at all.

    These days, of course, we’re having to rehash the whole thing over women bishops. Hopefully it will go more or less the same way, with the exception of the Ordinariate. (I reserve my opinion of those who decided to revise their apparently deeply held beliefs about the nature of the Eucharist and papal supremacy because of the possibility of having a woman boss.)

    • Being fair to people leaving for the Ordinariate, Jack, I get the impression (as an outsider) that there are many reasons for this – it’s just handier for headlline writers to boil it down to “Anglicans becoming Roman Catholics over women bishops/gay marriage”.

      It’s the culmination of a process of reflection on those very topics (the Eucharist, the role of the Pope) amongst others, but it gets presented as “now they’re jumping because they’re misogynists or heterosexists or racists”.

      Granted, there may be some people who do leave for those reasons, but if that’s your only reason for converting to Roman Catholicism, it won’t be long before you change your mind once again.

      • Aye, there’s long been a margin of Anglicans who feel tempted by Rome for various reasons. Nothing against that in principle (hey, I’m pretty much one myself!), but there’s a worryingly large contingent who say ‘women priests? Fine! But women bishops? Never!’. And that I find suspicious, it’s too much like ‘Women’s rights? Fine, so long as I don’t have to take orders from one!’.

  23. On a slightly tangential note, many denominations/networks/associations who discourage the leadership of women in public worship (reading, teaching, administering, etc…) seem to have a double standard for the mission field. It’s ok to send a woman missionary to do some of those things over in a third world country, but not in OUR churches? Sounds fishy to me. What about women evangelists?

    • I completely agree with you…It’s ok for women to teach the brown, heathen masses, but not white, male christians…there’s all sorts of unpleasantness in that double standard if you look at it closely. And out in the bush women do everything, EVERYTHING, that a man does in western churches from baptising to preaching if there’s no man to step up.

      I’m just so tired of this going-past-scripture to cut out women thing – why on earth did the Lord give women the abilities he has if our entire station in life is properly reduced to being submissive, non-college educated mothers of immense homeschooled broods so beloved of well known evangelical speakers….(NB, nothing wrong with large families, homeschooling etc, if that’s what you feel called to), but one non-academic size fits all is just so reductionistic. What are we to make of all these pesky talents & gifts that just keep popping up in the gals? We could exorcise them as the works of Satan they so undoubtedly are!

      It’s really really hard to be female & just keep hearing this stuff.

      • Well, you don’t necessarily have to be ordained to exercise all the gifts God has given to women. My question is, which responsibilities ought be reserved exclusively for the ordained?

  24. Often a good litmus test for the traditional rendering of complimentary roles is to look at the practice of the Roman Catholic Church. I have recently been to two Catholic weddings where women did the scripture reading and assisted the priest at the altar. They don’t find trouble with it (at least, not now that women are taught how to read), so why should we? This “women shouldn’t do xxxxxxxxx” teaching falls under the category of novelty, imo. Tradition says, just don’t ordain them, let them serve otherwise in any capacity the can. I think the real problem is our theology of ordination, which is intrinsically linked to our ecclesiology. We live in an era of self-ordained religious entrepreneurs. We will never sort out our gender roles, imo, until sort out our church office roles (which may never happen either).

    • +1

    • You’re right Miguel. The Catholic view is not really complementarian but sacramental. The neo-Reformed complementarian view posits distinct differences between the sexes and believes God ordained a hierarchy consistent with those differences. In my understanding, ordained priests are male because Christ was and there is a sacramental icon to be preserved by having men continue to serve in that role. It is not the same position. And the wonderful activities — and teaching! — of Catholic women over the centuries shows that the RC position is not based on constitutional differences in the genders.

  25. I’m with you on this one, Chaplain Mike. I am to the point of just getting tired when I hear these points of view about women being assigned only certain roles by God. I know that people point at Catholics and say, “Well, Catholicism won’t allow woman priests,” but that seems to be the only thing that Catholicism does not allow women to do. Women teach, read, sing, lead, you name it. And I have heard it stated that even the rule about not allowing women to be priests is a matter of “tradition” not a matter of “God does not want us to do that and it is forbidden.” Still, if Catholicism ever chose to change its tradition and allow women to be priests, it may resolve a lot of issues. (Maybe a few issues would get created.)

    • Joanie-

      The Washington Post had a story recently about a parish in Chantilly, Virginia near Dulles International Airport that made a decision to prevent girls from serving on the alter as alter girls. Instead they are resorting to the traditional view on alter boys.

      • Eagle, some years back we were told that girls would not be allowed to serve on the altar area. But my priest just kept on doing it anyway! It’s possible that many priests kept on allowing girls to serve. I can’t remember if it was a Maine Bishop proclamation or throughout the USA or worldwide. Since I have not been going to Mass regularly for some time, I don’t know if girls are serving now or not.

      • Glenn A Bolas says

        My understanding is that there is no in-principle objection to female altar servers in the Catholic Church, even on the traditionalist side. Those who do restrict altar serving to males do so on the grounds that altar serving has been traditionally a kind of pre-training ground for potential priests. Most any priest you meet will have started out as an altar server at some point. So, sure, it’s possible to have female altar servers- they’re not priests, after all- but they can’t become priests, so what would be the point?

        Granted, that’s not the most persuasive argument in the world (and the strength of feeling I’ve seen about it from some traditionalists seems disproportionate) but the point is that those Catholics who do object to female altar servers do so on largely practical and prudential grounds. Not on theological grounds like Challies.

  26. Silly.

    Tim Challies’ article and reasoning are just plain silly, as is his follow-up “explanation.”

    Patriarchal hierarchical gender-restrictionism aka “complementarianism” (including the only-male-priests versions in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches) in the Church, the Body of Christ, the New Human, the New Creation, as well as the arguments and justifications used to perpetuate its eternal second-classing of women is…


    And no amount of pedantic arguing from 1 Timothy 2 or 1 Corinthians 11 or Christ being born as a male, etc., changes the fact that it’s just plain….


    And wrong.

    Enough of this foolishness.

    • I am happy to debate the intricacies of the Biblical debate, but at the end of the day, this is really what is running through my mind. You can cite all the Scripture readings you want, use all the metaphors you wish, create the grandest theories possible, and the fact is that I just don’t see an empirical basis for it. It doesn’t line up with everyday life.

  27. John 4: 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
    28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,
    29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”
    30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.

    Boy was she messed up. Someone forget to tell her she could not preach.

  28. Does Challies’ church allow female Sunday School teachers? I would be shocked if they didn’t. Do they not read Scripture in the classes? Is this not considered teaching? The type of parsing needed for a complementarian position is simply too much for me. If a position requires you to create all sorts of exceptions for it to be tenable, well, it simply doesn’t seem like a tenable position to me.

    Apart from the complementarian issues, I find the other parts of the article just as ridiculous. Can you imagine the poor person given the task of reading in this church? “OK. Not to freak you out or anything, but make sure you don’t read too fast. Or too slow. And with emotion. But not too much emotion. Oh, make sure it sound regal and herald-like. Also make sure you’re dressed right. Perhaps if you do all this, your reading will be acceptable.”

    What idiocy.

  29. Phil
    There are practical reasons for those things. Believe it or not, people need to be told. What is common sense to one person is completely missed by another.

    Anyone who has had a job presenting things knows that all of these things listed are common mistakes people make.

    • It’s a church service, not a presentation or a performance. I would hope that if there was one environment where someone would know there was some grace if they messed up by speaking too fast or too slowly, too quietly, etc. that it would be in a church.

      I disagree. People do not need to be told. They are not children, and they aren’t imbeciles. Frankly, I’ve seen far too many people who take it upon themselves to be the critic of the church, and who have the attitude that no one can do it the way they like to have it done.

      • Phil, I’m not saying we have to be OCD about it. I just think people who read should prepare and seek to do it well just as people who sing, play instruments, or preach.

        • Amen to that. I have been a reader for 40+ years at Mass, and enjoy the chance to proclaim the Word. (In all truth, I have also been involved in amatuer acting for about as long, and teach for a living, so public speaking holds no terror for me.) It is true that we are sharing Scripture, not “performing”, but I have to agree that out of tune pianos and readers who rush, mumble, butcher words and otherwise make it hard to HEAR do not show appropriate appreciation for worship.

          (On a side note, I did once read “diadem” as “diaphram” regarding a bridegroom, but kept going and hope no on else noticed. My darling husband reminds me of this whenever this reading rolls around again!)

        • All I’d say is “seeking to do it” and “doing it” are different things. My initial reaction is just based on my experience of dealing with people with different levels of stage fright. If a person is feeling nervous about a public reading, giving them a list of dos and don’t is not going to help their nervousness. And to be clear, all we’re talking is reading. It’s not memorizing lines from a play or doing a recital. It’s reading from a text. I would just tell the reader to be themselves, relax, and not worry too much about it. Giving them a list of performance criteria will just make things worse.

          I guess I simply don’t agree that there’s no room or grace for mistakes or “poor” readings. I’m a musician, and I’ve got to say the times when I messed up or embarrassed myself on stage have been the things that have been the best learning experiences in my life. We can’t say that we’re nurturing an atmosphere of grace in the church when we don’t even exhibit it in these little areas during the service. And once you start injecting all these standards – show emotion, but not too much; read slowly, but not too slowly – it’s just human nature for it to go into OCD territory. So I guess I just disagree. Certainly if someone is purposefully being disrespectful that would be something to deal with. But if a person is simply nervous and stumbles over some words, well, than we need treat them with love and grace.

  30. This stuff is simply wearying. Ok, fine. We can amicably disagree about interpretations concerning women pastors. But that is not enough anymore. Sixty years ago, my mom had more freedom to serve in the SBC than she would now. And what is worse, she warned me we were headed this way over 15 years ago. This whole issue is out of control. And you know who I blame? Women! They make up over half of the what is termed the Body of Christ. But for some reason they feel more pious to have a human spiritual mediator on earth and buy into some perverted view of created order. (Cows before Eve, too, you know). They could simply vote with their feet. Did they not hear? The temple veil was torn on the Cross!

    My question for them is how can they be “Christlike” since Christ was a male? Who is their model for their pink Christianity? It cannot be Christ. He was the wrong gender in the flesh.

    It is a relief to come here and see men thinking this is going overboard, too.

    • But it’s not unusual for women to act as their own oppressors. Look at the Islamic world. It is often the women who are meanest to other women. Look at the FLDS church. Most of the women meekly go along with being reassigned to other men rather than following their excommunicated husband out of the church because they’d rather be married to a priesthood holder (and therefore get to go to heaven) than not have an eternity. It’s just the way it is.

      But I say hooray! for churches like the one in this discussion. If the sexism gets blatant enough, it will prevent other women from joining up and subjecting their daughters to this sort of nonsense.

  31. “Does Challies’ church allow female Sunday School teachers?”

    I have no idea about Challies specifically but I live at ground zero for YRR and we get prospective interns from the SBC seminary wanting to work at our church. Guess what they ask? Do women teach here at all? (this includes women teaching women!)

    My pastor simply tells them they would not be happy at our church. He says they shake their head at him and make some reference to it not being biblical. (My pastor is a Greek scholar with a PhD and very conservative)

    • “Do women teach here at all? (this includes women teaching women!)”

      So what do they expect women to do? Oh, let me guess: get married, have kids, submit in all things to their husbands’ headship, clean, cook and wash, and just sit there and shut up.

      Do these young men permit women to teach their male children their prayers, or is that encroaching upon the rights of the husband and father? Taking such strict interpretations to the reductio ad absurdum, this would mean that women should not be permitted to be teachers in public schools because only males can teach other males!

      I’m not one of those who take mentions of such as Junia and Phoebe as “proving” the early Church had female deacons, priests and bishops before the patriarchy suppressed them, but good grief, how about Paul’s own writings?

      Acts 18:24 ” 26And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”

      Note that it’s not just Aquila on his own who is doing the teaching of Apollos, it’s the pair of Aquil and Priscilla. Shock, horror, a woman teaching a man!

      The list of believers in Romans, which includes the names of women (are we to assume the mentions are only because they made such delicious apple pies to feed Paul after he and the rest of the men did the Serious Business?):

      “1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

      2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

      3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus:

      4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

      6 Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour on us.

      7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

      12 Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.

      13 Salute Rufus chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine.

      15 Salute Philologus, and Julia, Nereus, and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints which are with them.”

      I’m Catholic, and we’ve been accused of oppressing women within the Church, but by comparison, Pope John Paul II – who issued the apostolic letter “Ordinatio Sacerdotalis” reserving priestly ordination to men alone – looks like Mary Daly.

      I suppose the following are just yet more proofs of the Errors Of Rome?

      “Doctor of the Church (Latin doctor, teacher, from Latin docere, to teach) is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.

      In the Catholic Church, this name is given to a saint from whose writings the whole Church is held to have derived great advantage and to whom “eminent learning” and “great sanctity” have been attributed by a proclamation of a pope or of an ecumenical council. This honour is given rarely, and only after canonization. No ecumenical council has yet exercised the prerogative of proclaiming a Doctor of the Church.

      …Catherine of Siena …wrote mystical theology.

      …Until 1970, no woman had been named a Doctor of the Church, but since then three additions to the list have been women: Saints Teresa of Ávila (St. Teresa of Jesus), Catherine of Siena, and Thérèse de Lisieux (St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face), “the Little Flower”.”

      “Teresa is one of the foremost writers on mental prayer, and her position among writers on mystical theology is unique. In all her writings on this subject she deals with her personal experiences, which a deep insight and analytical gifts enabled her to explain clearly. Her definition was used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Contemplative prayer [oración mental] in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.”

      “Pope Benedict XV…(o)n 14 August 1921… promulgated the decree on the heroic virtues of Thérèse and gave an address on Thérèse’s way of confidence and love, recommending it to the whole Church.”

      “By the Apostolic Letter Divini Amoris Scientia (The Science of Divine Love) of 19 October 1997, Pope John Paul II declared her one of the thirty-three Doctors of the Universal Church”.

      From “The Science of Divine Love”:

      “3. The Pastors of the Church, beginning with my predecessors, the Supreme Pontiffs of this century, who held up her holiness as an example for all, also stressed that Thérèse is a teacher of the spiritual life with a doctrine both spiritual and profound, which she drew from the Gospel sources under the guidance of the divine Teacher and then imparted to her brothers and sisters in the Church with the greatest effectiveness”

  32. Lydia=

    I’m going to guess that there are women in Sunday School classes at Challies church…but they are probably “overseen” by a humanoid of the male species. Convenient way to let the women do the hard stuff while allowing a male to collect a salary.

  33. Challies clarified that it’s OK for women to “give their testimony” in church, because that is not teaching. In contrast, they believe reading scripture is a form of teaching.
    Conclusion: it’s ok for a woman to speak in Challies’ church as long as no one learns anything.

    Now, what if a woman stood up and said, “this is my testimony, that I personally have come to believe that the following scriptures are the inspired Word of God: ….”, and then proceeded to read straight from scripture? Now what would they do? Is she accidentally teaching, or merely quoting what was meaningful to her?

    • Good job Steve!! Where do you draw the line. I was taught that testimonies ARE teaching. They are teaching because people are being told of grace, redemption, a story, etc.. etc… It’s a practical hand’s on demo of how faith works, especially when scripture is being referenced. When I was a fundagelical how many testimonies did I hear that referenced scripture? Almost all of them!!

      • Eagle, Challies specifically said that Mary would be allowed to read her Magnificat, because it’s her personal testimony. Check it out – what % of the Magnificat is Mary’s “personal testimony”?
        My soul magnifies the Lord,
        and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
        For he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
        For behold, from this day all generations will call me blessed;
        For the mighty one has done great things to me, and holy is his name.
        ***[That’s where Mary’s personal testimony (the ‘me’ part) concludes, but yet she keeps on “teaching”]***
        And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
        He has shown strength with his arm;
        He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts;
        He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the holy;
        He has filled the hungry with good things,
        and the rich he has sent empty away.
        He has helped his servant Israel,
        in remembrance of his mercy,
        as he spoke to our fathers,
        to Abraham and to his seed forever.

        • If that’s what Challies thinks, he doesn’t know his Bible, for Mary’s Magnificat is a psalm that is very close to Hannah’s song in 1Sam 2, NT scripture that is expressing the fulfillment of that OT scripture. Furthermore, in the context of Luke-Acts, the moving of the Spirit upon these women in the early chapters of Luke portends what will come on the day of Pentecost, when women prophesying (speaking the Word of God) is said to be part of what will happen in the entire church now that the Spirit has been sent. This is no “personal testimony” in the modern sense.

        • Chaplain Mike is right: A whole lot of the Magnificat comes from concepts and even quotes from the OT. One could argue that since Mary was saying this to Elizabeth, she wasn’t actually teaching men at the time, so it was okay for her to start teaching from scripture. But starting with Luke, men ever since have quoted and taught upon the Magnificat, so that knocks that excuse to bits.