One of the most significant divisions among those who name the name of Christ is whether or not women can teach or have authority over men in the church. I would like to make the argument in this article that egalitarianism and inerrancy cannot consistently exist together.
1. The best egalitarian Bible scholars agree that 1 Timothy 2:12 is in disagreement with their position:
Luke Timothy Johnson in his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles writes:
“Paul was not in this case engaging in sober exegesis of Genesis, but supporting his culturally conservative position on the basis of texts that in his eyes demonstrate the greater dignity and intelligence of men and, therefore, the need for women to be silent and subordinate to men” (208).
F. F. Bruce disagrees with Paul’s position during a conversation with Scot McKnight as recorded in The Blue Parakeet:
“What about the silencing passages of Paul on women?” I asked. “I think Paul would roll over in his grave if he knew we were turning his letters into torah.” “What do you think then about women in church ministries?” Professor Bruce’s answer was as Pauline as Paul was: “I’m for whatever God’s Spirit grants women gifts to do” (206-207).
2. Most feminists who have read the Bible agree that 1 Timothy 2:12 contradicts their view:
For example, the feminist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton rejected Paul’s writings as authoritative:
“It cannot be admitted that Paul was inspired by infinite wisdom in this utterance. This was evidently the unilluminated utterance of Paul, the man, biased by prejudice. But, it may be claimed that this edict referred especially to teaching in religious assemblies. It is strikingly inconsistent that Paul, who had proclaimed the broadest definition of human souls, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male or female, but ye are one in Christ Jesus,’ as the Christian idea, should have commanded the subjection of woman, and silence as essential to her proper sphere in the Church” (The Woman’s Bible).
3. All of the arguments that are used to reconcile egalitarianism and the Bible have been thoroughly answered by Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner, and Wayne Grudem. See Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth which answers all of them in exhaustive detail. There seems to be an unwillingness to interact with the best arguments set forward by complementarians. The arguments for complementarianism are simply dismissed instead of dealt with at the exegetical level.
4. There is a theological trajectory, as noted by Owen Strachan, that begins with egalitarianism, then moves to mother-god language, and ends with the normalcy of homosexuality and gay marriage. Just look at the beliefs of Rachel Held Evans and the emerging church movement. Egalitarianism is the gateway drug of theological liberalism. Once the historicity of Genesis is abandoned, you can believe anything you want about marriage, gender roles, sexuality, human dignity, or modesty. I can attest to the accuracy of this trajectory based on my time among theological liberals.
5. None of the seminaries or colleges that teach egalitarianism require their professors to sign The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
6. None of the denominations that promote egalitarianism require their ministers or employees to affirm The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
7. Many of those denominations that do support egalitarianism are now supporting same-sex marriage and mother-god language (see the PC(USA), ELCA, Episcopalians, the Moravian church, UCC, the emerging church, and a large portion within the UMC and Church of England).
8. Compare the ending of Women in the Church edited by Kostenberger and Schreiner with that of Discovering Biblical Equality edited by Ronald W. Pierce which is infected by postmodern thinking:
“If such obedience involves a certain amount of suffering and being misunderstood, this, after all, has always been part of the calling of followers of Christ, and we live in a time where being conservative may be the most radical thing of all.”
Versus (try not to laugh):
“There is an arrogance to which we are all liable. It is the arrogance of thinking that only we have the truth. God’s truth may well be greater than all of our ‘truths.’ Until we come into that larger truth, we may be true to the truth we have embraced. But even as we embrace our paradigm, may God help us to move toward an understanding of his true and perfect paradigm which may well swallow up all earthly paradigms for the relationship of men and women in the church and home.”
9. If Paul was wrong in 1 Timothy 2:12, on what basis can you believe he was right in Galatians 3:28? If Paul contradicted himself, why can’t 1 Timothy 2:12 be right and Galatians 3:28 be wrong? You are ultimately reduced to a subjective hermeneutic where you decide what in Scripture is right and what is wrong.