Biblical Scholar Warns of Unsuspecting Path to Theological Liberalism
- Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Grudem: That’s an interesting way of summarizing the book, and I think you’ve made a good point. The idea is that with regard to marriage, the Bible teaches that we – men and women – are equal in value in God’s sight. He created us both in His image, as it says in Genesis 1:26-27. But God also gave a leadership role to the husband in the marriage. So Paul can say in Ephesians 5 that wives are to be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. So there is a leadership role for men in marriage. And the whole Church throughout history has believed that except for the last 40 years or so.
In the church, the Bible values and encourages the use of spiritual gifts by men and women alike, and sees us both as equal in value in the church, but the governing and teaching roles that belong to a pastor or elder in a church are restricted to men, according to 1 Timothy 2, and 1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1 and other passages.
CW: Then, if subordination does not imply inferiority, why do we tend to think it does?
Grudem: Oh, it’s the culture. Our culture – at least since the 1960s – has had a strong bias against authority, whether it’s the authority of the government or the teacher in a school or the authority of parents, or the authority of God. And that, I think, has an influence on the discussions of authority within marriage (which belongs to a husband), and authority within the church (which belongs to the pastor and elders for the whole church). So that anti-authority trend in the culture is one thing. Another thing probably is the loss of a biblical view that God is the supreme authority over all of life, and all of us are subject – or should be subject – to His authority. That is not dehumanizing. It doesn’t degrade us; it just causes us to fill the role that God made us for.
We see that even in the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Trinity, where the Son is subject to the authority of the Father, but they’re both equally God! So, we really shouldn’t dislike being under authority – when it’s rightly used; I’m not talking about abuse of authority. Something in our culture has taught us a lie that if you have power over others that’s good, and if you’re under other people’s authority that’s bad. And actually, both are found in the Bible, and when they’re not distorted by sinful patterns of behavior then both things are good, and we should find fulfillment wherever God has placed us.
CW: You are a co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. From that perspective, what have you observed to be evangelicalism’s most common treatment (or mis-treatment), or interpretation (or mis-interpretation) of verses regarding the role of women in the home or the church, such as those found in 1 Corinthians 14, 1 Timothy 2, and elsewhere?
Grudem: I think still that the most common interpretation is the correct one, and that is that 1 Timothy 2 restricts the role of Bible teaching or governing authority over the assembled church to men, while still – in that very passage – honoring women, and saying it’s right that women learn, as well as men, from the teaching of God’s Word.
And then, in 1 Corinthians 14, I think the growing consensus among many interpreters is that, when Paul says, “As in all the churches of the saints the women should keep silent in the churches (1 Cor. 14:34),” that we have to understand what he is talking about in the context, in the church at Corinth. People with the gift of prophecy were standing up and giving prophecies, and then others were evaluating them (1 Cor. 14:29), and in that context Paul says that women should not stand up and give spoken judgments against a prophecy that was given, because that’s a governing and protecting role over the entire congregation that is reserved for men. That’s very consistent with 1 Timothy 2. But certainly Paul does not mean that women should be totally silent in that context, because just a bit earlier in 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul allows women to speak out loud in church to pray, or to give prophecies. Those are not teaching or governing over the whole congregation, but those are other kinds of speech activities, and they are certainly encouraged by Paul.
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