It is true, my wife doesn’t like bacon (I know it is pretty shocking). She doesn’t like green (lime?) dots either. Or Jazz. Or Mel Brooks movies. Or wool socks. All things I love. But that in no way make her less than me, just different than me.
Usually I do the cooking at home. And the shopping. She picks out the furniture and the décor. That doesn’t make me less than my wife, I just do different things in the home.
On Sunday at church, I preach and she prays for me while I preach and sometimes mans the soundboard. That in no way makes me better than her, it just means that we have different roles in the church.
And unlike our choices of breakfast meats or music or how we divide domestic chores it is not merely a matter of our preferences, or exercising our abilities to the greatest benefit for our household, our roles in the church are not only different, they are biblically limited. At least in terms of preaching, teaching and exercising authority.
It is crystal clear in scripture that eldership, teaching and exercising authority is a biblically mandated male duty. Witness 1 Timothy 2:12.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
Some argue that Paul was somehow responding to a specific (but unknown) situation in the church at Ephesus. And that might be a compelling argument if Paul didn’t ground his command in the creation order.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 1 Tim 2:14-14
I think it is crystal clear what Scripture says, and moreover I think that those who advocate for women preaching know it is crystal clear what Scripture says. They, for whatever reason, just don’t care. But that is not what I want to talk about.
What I want to talk about is an issue I think flies under the radar, the misogyny of egalitarians. They functionally reduce the worth of women to what roles and offices are open to them in the church. Where women are valued they say, they preach and serve as elders. And anywhere that women don’t preach and serve as elders it is only because women aren’t valued.
But here is the thing, saying that a woman is made less or more valuable based on the role she plays in the church is no different than the misogyny shown in the dark corner of gothardism influenced evangelicalism where the worth of a woman or a girl is tied to her bearing children or her potential to bear children. Really, to me, it is no different. It is not imbuing women with intrinsic value based on their bearing the image of God.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:26-27
And the very first command given to mankind after the flood drive home the intrinsic value of being an image bearer.
And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image. – Genesis 9:5-6
And it also introduces a division into the body of Christ based on roles, and identities not rooted in Christ, something that one of the favorite (misused) verses of egalitarians expressly teaches against.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. – Galatians 3:28-29
(I included the seldom quoted verse 29 to drive home the fact that what is being taught is unity and ontological equality, not equality of roles.)
The qualifications for an elder are found in the pastoral epistles.
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. – 1 Timothy 3:1-7
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. – Titus 1:5-9
They are pretty clear, and one of the things that both passage are crystal clear about is that an elder must have the ability to teach. It is the one qualification, putting aside the issue of gender, that is not a character qualification. To say that adherence to the historical position of the church on roles indicates a low view of women is the same as saying that upholding the qualification of being apt to teach is based solely on a low view of those lacking the ability to teach.
But no one says that. In fact Paul says the service of everyone, male and female, able to teach or not is essential to a healthy church.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds (pastors/elders) and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:11-16
There is no hierarchy of roles, because we are all in this together. We are all in this together, striving toward the same goal. And Paul makes this clear writing to the Corinthians.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-21
Saying that anyone’s, woman or man, worth is tied to their role in the church is to say that some parts of the body are more valuable than others. And when it is applied to women being in a pastoral role, I don’t see a huge difference between this position and saying that a woman’s value is tied to her conformity to current cultural standards of beauty or how well she functions as a life support system for a womb. It reduces her worth to her role, whether she is an elder, or eye candy or a mother. And that is misogyny in its ugliest form.