His Wisdom for Her World

Does Anything Trump Scripture?

By on August 12, 2014 in Ministry, Theology with 6 Comments
Fork in the road

When it comes to women serving in different capacities in ministry, what acts as the final word for you in determining what is appropriate and what is not? What is your ultimate authority or final court of appeals? Does some human authority or some supposed pragmatic reason ever trump Scripture? Have you ever found yourself saying something like, “I know God’s Word says this, but I think…”

If so, then we have a problem. What happens in that moment of “…but I think…” is that we make ourselves more authoritative than God in determining how to live God’s way. We, in essence, become our own God, following our own way. We make the mistake the nation of Israel made when they did what was right in their own eyes instead of obeying God (Judges 21:25).

Regarding women and ministry, don’t ever miss the fact that God wants women involved in ministry! But we need to do it His way and not our own. He has given us guidelines in Scripture (see 1 Tm 2:9-15, 1 Co 11:2-11; Titus 2:3-5). Despite that fact, I have heard many “…but I think…” reasons offered as to why we should let women serve as pastors or serve in some capacity in the church where women are teaching men or serving in authority over men. If you believe (as I do) that God’s Word teaches that there are some boundaries for women as they serve in ministry, then any reason offered for dismissing or overruling God’s directives to women needs to bow to Scripture.

Consider just some of the reasons people use to trump what God says in the Bible about women in ministry:

The Perceived Leading of the Holy Spirit—I have heard many women say that God has “called” them to be a pastor. Why would God contradict Himself? Why would He lead a woman to teach men and have authority over men in the church if He told women not to do those very things in Scripture? Anytime we attribute to God something that contradicts His Word, I am afraid we are actually using God’s name in vain.

The Pastor Gave His Blessing—I had a student one time who was preaching on Sunday mornings at her church. She said she believed it was okay for her to do that because her pastor had asked her to serve in that capacity while he was away from church. While we must certainly respect the leadership of our churches, that doesn’t mean they serve as the ultimate authority. If the Bible clearly teaches something, then pastoral authority does not trump biblical authority.

My Husband Gave His Blessing—What if a woman is married and her husband serves as a pastor alongside her or encourages her to be a pastor? Just like the example above, human authority does not trump scriptural authority. The encouragement of a husband is also not a license to ignore what Scripture clearly says.

Historical Precedents –What about all the women who served as pastors in church history? Church history is great—I love learning from both the good and bad examples in our past, but just because we have examples of women serving as pastors, doesn’t mean women should do so today. We still need to use discernment. Historical precedents can be instructive and informative but are not ultimately authoritative.

Spiritual Gifting—What about women who have the spiritual gift of teaching (Rom 12:7) or leadership (Rom 12:8)? Women certainly do have gifts of teaching and leadership. However, we are still responsible for exercising those spiritual gifts as God as directed. Paul had to correct some believers in Corinth because they were not using spiritual gifts appropriately (1 Cor 12—14). Some believers point out that the list of spiritual gifts in Scripture aren’t segregated by gender, and I agree with that (see Eph 4:11; 1 Cor 12:8-11; Rom 12:6-8). Women can have any of the spiritual gifts, but whichever gift they receive from the Holy Spirit must be used in biblically appropriate ways. I believe one of my spiritual gifts is teaching, and I use it to teach young women. A woman with the gift of teaching or leadership can have a valuable impact on the church while still staying within biblical guidelines.

Success in Ministry—Let’s be honest, there are a lot of women today who are teaching men and having authority over men in the church. When one of those women appears to have success, then she is often held up as “exhibit A” of why women shouldn’t be prohibited from doing anything in ministry. However, that is human reasoning and logic. Who knows what success she may experience if she fully obeyed the Lord. The results of someone’s ministry do not cancel out what Scripture says.

At the end of the day, we must each decide what, or who,  our ultimate authority is. Then we must submit to that authority, lining up our experiences, opinions, and abilities under it. For me, I would rather trust God’s Word over my own thoughts any day because I am painfully aware of my own sinfulness and shortcomings. God trumps Candi Finch each and every time, and that is the way it should be. He made me after all.

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About the Author

About the Author: Candi Finch serves as Assistant Professor of Theology in Women’s Studies at Southwestern and is nearing the end of her PhD studying systematic theology. She loves used book stores, getting to teach young women, and eating any food she doesn’t have to cook herself! Her secret ambition in life is to compete on Survivor or The Amazing Race. .

Comments welcome. Keep it classy.

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  1. Linda says:

    You’ve covered several arguments that Wayne Grudem covers in his book “Evangelical Feminism” (which I am in the middle of reading), just in a condensed and to-the-point form. Excellent and spot in. I am SO excited to begin auditing the Biblical Theology of Womanhood class!!

  2. Hannah says:

    Though the word of God is inerrant, our interpretations of it are not. Many Christian denominations disagree about women in the ministry because of these differences of interpretation – not because some dismiss scripture.
    I would love to read more about why the interpretation of the cited passages this article assumes is the correct one.

  3. Peter says:

    It is indeed wise to remind women (or anyone) to base their decisions and values on Scripture. It is also important to “test the spirits” as John warns us in 1 John 4. However, it is a bit simplistic to assume that all who conclude differently about the role of women in ministry have not also based their conclusions on Scripture. As noted by the prior comment, we tread on shaky ground when we consider certain interpretations as more legitimate than others. My wife and I hold different views on the role of women in ministry, but we would never accuse one another of not basing our views on the bible. Your thoughts/feedback are most welcome.

  4. Candi Finch says:

    Hannah and Peter,
    I appreciate your comments. In another one of my blog posts (Biblical Womanhood 101), I have addressed the fact that I do not think all egalitarians “dismiss” Scripture. I apologize if I gave that impression. In this particular post, I was trying to address the person who believes the Bible teaches something, but uses one of the reasons above to supersede or trump what they understand the Bible to be teaching. Though I do not agree with the egalitarian understanding of gender roles, most of my brothers and sisters in Christ who hold that position do so because they believe that is what the Bible teaches. Hope that clarifies things a bit!

  5. maggie says:

    Awesome Post, so grateful that there is greater authority in scripture than my feelings

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