As I noted in my last post, complementarians have jumped from deciding that women are not forbidden to preach to women, to believing that women must be taught by other women. While the first change was accepted under very dubious arguments, the second change occurred with no real argument at all. Now complementarians not only believe that Paul didn’t prohibit women from preaching in 1 Tim 2:14, they also believe that it is borderline (if not outright) improper for a man to teach a woman Scripture.
Jen Wilkin makes this very common assertion at The Gospel Coalition (TGC) in Pastors Need Women Teachers (and Vice Versa). Why do pastors need women teachers? Among other reasons, because women in ministry have authority Pastors do not, and can not, have:
She holds an authority you cannot hold. A woman can tell other women to stop making idols of their careers or families in a way you can’t. A woman can address other women on vanity, pride, submission, and contentment in a way you can’t. She holds empathetic authority over her female students—the ability to say, “I understand the besetting sins and fears of womanhood, and I commend to you the sufficient counsel of Scripture.” She can lighten your load by confronting sins women might resent you addressing at all. She can say things like “PMS is not an excuse for homicide” and not get a single nasty e-mail the following day.
Wilkin is mixing multiple things here, combining Paul’s wisdom in Titus 2 with a claim that pastors lack authority over women. In the case of the latter, the existence of rebellion is offered as proof that men (and therefore pastors) lack authority to confront women in rebellion. Wilkin also offers the standard “diversity” argument, explaining that men are too testosterone laden to effectively teach women:
She brings a perspective you cannot bring. When men teach, they naturally draw on examples that resonate with men. This means women who exclusively hear male teaching will be offered a fair number of testosterone-laden illustrations from action movies and sports. And that’s fine. But a woman teacher might also speak the language of Jane Austen novels and HGTV. And she’ll probably draw a few different observations from the text than a man might. This is not to say she will feminize a text, but that she will likely emphasize those elements of the text that highlight the role of women in redemptive history, or that speak to sin issues women commonly face.
Wilkin is the new guard of feminist complementarians, and as such is constantly agitating for more women in leadership. She is however in the mainstream in challenging the idea of men having the authority and ability to preach to women, especially on the issue of women’s sins. The idea that it is somehow inappropriate for a man to preach to women is baked into the creation of separate ministries and Bible studies run by women, for women. It is similarly baked into the expectation that if a Pastor teaches or writes a book about biblical marriage he needs to bring his wife in to teach at the same time, or at the very least make her the public face for women.
When Pastor Voddie Baucham preached on Ephesians 5, FamilyLife president and CBMW Board of Reference member Dennis Rainey noted that there was something very discomforting about the idea of a man preaching to women about what the Bible says wives are to do:
Dennis: I’ve got a feeling it’s probably pretty quiet in some cars and, maybe, on some headsets, listening to this broadcast.
Bob: Let me just say that we still have Part Two to come. That is where Voddie is going to talk to men about loving their wives as Christ loves the church. This message has some balance to it, but—pretty strong stuff.
Dennis: It is strong stuff. As I was sitting there listening to Voddie give that message, I thought, “You know, this would be a tough message for a woman, in this culture, to hear, if it was given by a woman.
Dennis: But hearing it from a man—it is interesting. I think for some women—that makes it tough to hear. I would just say to the wife or the young lady who is listening to that and says, “I don’t like that!”—you know what? He didn’t write it. He does deliver the mail. He’s just trying to share with you what the Scriptures teach, in terms of how a marriage relationship between a husband and a wife—how they’re to complement each other and not compete with each other. There’s a lot about the Bible that causes the hair on the back of my neck to stand up.
Bob: [Laughing] You go, “I don’t like that part either!”
Dennis: As a man, absolutely! And yet, in this culture, Bob, I feel like we poisoned the stream about—I don’t know—four decades ago and really made it almost objectionable for a message like this to be preached by a pastor—by a man—to a mixed audience, at this point. I don’t want you to hear me apologizing that we did it—that’s not my point. I want to recognize that, in this culture, we understand that it does go against the grain of what a lot of women are taught.
When Mark Driscoll preached on 1 Peter 3:1-6, he was visibly uncomfortable with the the idea of preaching to women. He was so uncomfortable with this that he took the unusual step of bringing his wife up to answer the questions after the sermon. He did this because:
…if I answered all of the women’s questions it would go really bad.
Similarly, when Acts 29 president Matt Chandler preaches on topics related to women, he prefaces his sermons with a self depricating comment about how dangerous it is for a man to preach to women. In A Beautiful Design part 7: Woman’s Purpose Chandler opens with:
A man teaching on the purpose of woman. What could go wrong?
In part 8 Woman’s Hurdles he opens with:
Well, a man talking about the sinfulness of women. Just not dangerous at all, is it?
Under this new model contrary to Eph 5:26 and 1 Cor 14:35 husbands are no longer to instruct their wives on Scripture, especially relating to submission. Mary Kassian explains this in 7 Misconceptions about Submission:
A husband does not have the right to demand or extract submission from his wife. Submission is HER choice—her responsibility… it is NOT his right!! Not ever. She is to “submit herself”— deciding when and how to submit is her call. In a Christian marriage, the focus is never on rights, but on personal responsibility. It’s his responsibility to be affectionate. It’s her responsibility to be agreeable. The husband’s responsibility is to sacrificially love as Christ loved the Church—not to make his wife submit.
Kathy Keller explained the same thing at FamilyLife:
If there are husbands out there that are saying, “Yes, I’m the head. This is good teaching. I like this head stuff.” It’s respectful submission between equals. Submission is something that a wife gives. It’s not something that a husband can demand.
This new sex segregated model only goes in one direction. In both Kassian and Keller’s cases we have women teaching men (either directly or via their wives) what their proper role is; the instruction is to back off, you aren’t welcome teaching your wife. Likewise Jen Wilkin is teaching pastors how they should run their church. Moreover, both Kassian and Keller agree that wives should teach their husbands. Kathy Keller is famous for teaching that submission means throwing “godly tantrums” if a husband isn’t doing as his wife says. Kassian teaches wives to set clear boundaries for their husbands and enact consequences if he doesn’t follow them:
No brain-dead doormats or spineless bowls of Jello here! Submission is neither mindless nor formulaic nor simplistic. Submitting to the Lord sometimes involves drawing clear boundaries and enacting consequences when a husband sins.