Monday, January 29, 2018

A Review of God Calling by Two Listeners

I'm presently working on manuscript for a book entitled Jesus Called (and Here is What He Said). As you can probably tell by the title, the book is in response to the bestselling devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. But more than being a criticism, I want to teach people what Christ has actually said in His word, the Bible. That's how Jesus speaks -- not in your head or through strange women who claim God has personally addressed them.

In case you're not familiar with it, Jesus Calling is written from the first-person perspective of Jesus, as though Jesus actually said the things Young wrote in her book. If that were true, then Jesus Calling is Scripture. Young has said that she was inspired by another book entitled God Calling by Two Listeners, an admission that her publisher, Thomas Nelson, appears to be trying to conceal.

Both Jesus Calling and God Calling were written by way of a new-age spiritual technique called "automatic writing." It is a pagan practice, not a godly one. A blogger for the website Mind Body Green describes this process here, which is eerily similar to how Sarah Young and the Two Listeners say they wrote their respective books.

You'll have to wait for the finished manuscript to read my critique of Jesus Calling (or maybe I'll post some of it on the blog at a later time). I hope to be finished by next month and maybe have the completed book available in late spring. I've been asked a few times to do a critique of God Calling by Two Listeners, edited by A.J. Russell. The following is an excerpt I have written. Some of this has been adjusted for use in a blog.


In 1932, English journalist Arthur James Russell published a book entitled For Sinners Only about the Oxford Group and its founder Dr. Frank N.D. Buchman. The Oxford Group was an evangelical movement that combined social life with Christian ethics, containing "no hierarchy, no temples, no endowments, its workers no salaries, no plans but God's plan." Perhaps their most recognized contribution to the world today is the addiction recovery program Alcoholics Anonymous, started by two men from the Oxford Group.

The Oxford Group followed four spiritual practices that included sharing with other Christians about sins and temptations, making restitution with all who have been wronged, listening for God's direction, and then surrendering to that direction and following it. Buchman believed that if you gave God enough quiet and uninterrupted time, He would tell you what to do. "Listening means an unhurried time when God really can have a chance to imprint His thoughts in your mind," he said.

Buchman used to begin every morning with Bible study and prayer, but he found this to be unproductive. Evangelist F.B. Meyer, friend to D.L. Moody, convinced Buchman that he needed to be silent and "let the Holy Spirit guide you in all that you are doing." So for an hour every morning, he would sit in what he called his Quiet Time, just listening for God to speak. The results were so life-changing that he wanted to share his new method of meditation—which he considered thoroughly biblical—with the whole world.

As Buchman's teachings were gaining notoriety, two English women read A.J. Russell's book and were captured by the practice of what the Oxford Group called Guidance. Russell shared of a time he told Buchman about visions he had, and Buchman interpreted his visions for him. At the end of their meeting, they sat in "prayerful silence," pen and paper in hand. Russell wrote down all the thoughts that came to his mind, and Buchman "pronounced them to be God-given thoughts."

The two women were so inspired by Russell's account of receiving thoughts from God that they decided to try Buchman's method for themselves. What they wrote from their meditations was compiled into a book entitled God Calling by Two Listeners, edited by Russell and published in 1935 in England (today it's published as simply God Calling). The two women remained anonymous; "They seek no praise," Russell wrote in his introduction.

One of the Listeners explained at the start of the book how the book was written: "We sat down, pencils and paper in hand, and waited. This was in December 1932." She described herself as skeptical, but her friend as deeply religious. Here is what she said:
"My results were entirely negative. Portions of texts came and went, then my mind wandered to ordinary topics. I brought it back again and again, but with no success. To this day, I cannot get guidance in this way alone.  
"But with my friend a very wonderful thing happened. From the first, beautiful messages were given to her by our Lord Himself, and every day from then these messages have never failed us. We felt all unworthy and overwhelmed by the wonder of it, and could hardly realize that we were being taught, trained, and encouraged day by day by Him personally, when millions of souls, far worthier, had to be content with guidance from the Bible, sermons, their Churches, books, and other sources."
She concluded, "This book, which we believe has been guided by our Lord Himself, is no ordinary book. It is published, after much prayer, to prove that a living Christ speaks today, plans and guides the humblest, that no detail is too insignificant for His attention, that He reveals Himself now as ever as a Humble Servant and Majestic Creator."

Where Two or More Are Gathered?

In the opening of God Calling, Russell featured a single page with these words from Jesus in the Bible: "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:19-20, but the reference isn't given in the book.)

Russell meant to suggest that because these revelations were shared by two women who were "gathered together" in Jesus' name, the Lord was with them and the words they wrote were His. But when you look at that verse, Matthew 18:19-20, in context, you will see it's about correcting an offending brother or sister in the body of Christ concerning their sin:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
Jesus was talking about church discipline, not how to authenticate secret voices or visions or messages from God!

If the standard of true revelation is simply that two people heard a voice or shared a vision, then Mormonism must be true. Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery claimed to receive the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood from John the Baptist in the woods of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and were then baptized together in the Susquehanna River.

But we can verify without a doubt that Mormonism is not true. We do this by using the Bible. Smith said he received the Melchizedek priesthood, but Hebrews 7:24 says that Jesus Christ holds that position aparabaton, which in the Greek means "permanently" and "without successor." That word appears in all of the earliest texts that we have of the book of Hebrews. Which is more likely: that the Bible is wrong, or Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were conspiring liars?

Now, whether these two women "gathered together" to conspire and lie, I cannot say regarding the intentions of their hearts. We don't even know who they are, as A.J. Russell never gave up their names—or if they, ahem, even exist at all. What I can say is this: using the same standard we use to test Smith and Cowdery's claim—testing them with the Bible—we can likewise verify without out a doubt these Two Listeners did not hear the voice of God.

The book was written as daily devotionals from the perspective of God speaking to them. Most of it is rather choppy spiritualism: "Love Me and do My Will. No evil shall befall you. Take no thought for tomorrow. Rest in My presence brings Peace. God will help you. Desire brings fulfillment. Peace like a quiet flowing river cleanses, sweeps all irritants away" (January 5).

Some of it borders on the weird and insensible: "You will absorb an atmosphere" (January 7). What on earth or in heaven does that mean? "Joy is the God-given cement that secures the harmony and beauty of my mosaic" (January 16). Uh huh.

But then there are the parts of God Calling that are clearly unbiblical. The Listeners, in the voice of God, wrote, "You need me. I need you" (April 19). No, the Bible is unreservedly clear that God does not need us or any thing. Acts 17:25 says that God is not "served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." Romans 11:35-36 says, "Or who has given a gift to Him that He might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen."

The women claim God said to them, "I await the commands of My children" (April 3). That is absurd. If I knew a word other than "prideful" to describe such a deep level of human arrogance, I would use it. Do you believe we can command the Creator of the universe? A mouse would sooner tame a lion, teach it to roll over and play dead, enroll in college, receive his doctorate in dental surgery, and remove all of the lion's teeth before any one of us command God to do anything!

Psalm 115:3 says, "Our God is in the heavens; He does all that He pleases." Lamentations 3:37 says, "Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?" Acts 17:30 says, "The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent." We do not command God. He commands us, and we must obey Him. It is our delight to obey Him! Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

The women wrote that God said to them, "I do not delay My second coming. My followers delay it. If each lived for Me, by Me, in Me, allowing Me to live in him, to use him to express the Divine through him, as I expressed it when on earth, then long ago the world would have been drawn to Me, and I should have come to claim My own" (November 6). This is a common false teaching among new-revelation charismatics, claiming that we determine when the Lord returns.

Seventh-Day Adventist prophet Ellen G. White said she knew when the world would end. She made multiple predictions in 1843, 1844, 1845, and 1851. When the end of the world didn't happen, White blamed her followers: "Thus the work was hindered and the world was left in darkness. Had the whole Adventist body united upon the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, how widely different would have been our history."

Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, teaches that the second coming of Christ is either sped-up or delayed based on the church's spiritual maturity and readiness. Most Christians are passively waiting for Christ to return, but if they want it to happen, they're going to have to make it happen. Bickle said, "There's a number of really crystal-clear precepts or principles or things that God wants done, and He's not going to do it except that the praying church prays and releases them." Is Bickle also saying that we command God?

We have absolutely nothing to do with what day Christ returns. In Acts 17:31, the Apostle Paul preached that God "has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness." That day is fixed. He knows which day and what hour He will judge the world (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32). Jesus said that the one who says to himself, "My master is delayed," is a wicked servant (Matthew 24:48). Peter said to watch out for scoffers who will say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:3-4).

The two women of God Calling quote familiar Bible phrases like "Take up your cross daily and follow me," or "In my Father's house there are many mansions." But these verse fragments are often taken out of context. They wrote, "Is not the message of My servant Paul now plain: 'Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,' because My Guidance is intensified immeasurably in power, when the two are one in desire to be with Me—but so few have understood it" (April 14).

Well thank heavens those women were around to tell us what God really meant! It's ironic they cited that passage—2 Corinthians 6:14. Paul was not talking about gaining more Guidance power. He was confronting those who were in rebellion against true Apostolic teaching!

If one is familiar with the Scriptures and then reads God Calling by Two Listeners, they will notice a distinct difference in tone between the Bible and this cheeky book. God Calling doesn't sound like the voice of God that we read in the Bible—it sounds like an early-nineteenth century English woman.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Can Women be Pastors and Teach in Seminaries or Not?


On Monday, John Piper responded to a question at Desiring God regarding women as seminary professors. Since the Bible says that only men are permitted to serve as pastors and elders in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-12, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35), should women be teaching at theological seminaries where men, training to become pastors, would be sitting under their instruction?

Piper's answer can be summarized in this statement: "If it's unbiblical to have women as pastors, how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded?" In fewer words, no, women should not be professors at seminaries. I agree with Piper.

Needless to say, the response has been uproarious. "Women are just as capable of being seminary professors as men!" the opposition argues. "Women can be just as gifted in teaching, leadership, and even preaching!" Sure they can. But that isn't the issue. It's not about whether a woman has the ability to teach. When it comes to having teaching authority over men, she's not permitted.

I say again: this is not a matter of ability, it's a matter of permission. Is a woman capable of being a gifted seminary teacher? Sure. But does God permit her to be a seminary teacher, holding teaching authority over those men who are training to be pastors? No.

Rebellion and bad arguments abound over this issue. The following are some of those arguments from the sphere of social media. Some of these comments were directed at me.

"These types of complementarians try to argue that they don't think women are inferior while simultaneously claiming women are fundamentally incapable of teaching men anything about faith, Scripture, and the Christian life." Rachel Held Evans, TN

Again, that is not the argument. No complementarians are arguing that women are incapable of being teachers. The issue is: in what capacity are they allowed to teach? However capable a teacher Evans believes she is, she has demonstrated over and over that she's virtually incapable of listening to and understanding a viewpoint other than her own on this matter.

Complementarianism, in case you aren't familiar with the word, is the biblical understanding that God made men and women different (duh) and designed them for different roles. Men and women are to work together complementing one another in their strengths and weaknesses. This especially applies to the way God designed marriage, but it also applies to the way God intends the church to function.

There are things God means for a man to do that a woman shouldn't do. Likewise, there are things a woman can do that a man cannot. Yes, a woman can teach. She can teach children and she can teach other women. She can even evangelize. She can encourage and admonish her brothers and sisters in the Lord. But she is not permitted to hold pastoral teaching authority over men.

It's perhaps to no one's surprise that Evans thinks a man can be a woman. Not all theological egalitarians (who believe the Bible permits women to be pastors) also believe men can be women, but it's often a revealing issue. Unless Evans repents, her theology remains fatally poisonous. Rachel Held Evans can teach. And she teaches falsely.

"If you are interested in going to Seminary, please do not give your time or your money to an institution that does not hire female faculty. For the love of God, we do not need any more people serving in the church who have only been taught by men." Melissa Moore, TX

Melissa is Beth Moore's daughter. She works for Beth's ministry, Living Proof Ministries, and has taught through the ministry. Is this Beth Moore's position, that men must be formally taught by women in order to be properly equipped for the pastorate? Does she believe no one should fund or attend a seminary that teaches otherwise? Among my concerns here, LPM continues to demonstrate they are outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.

Lest anyone be asking themselves, "Wait, can women attend seminary?" let me clarify with a resounding, "Yes!" This discussion is not about whether a woman can attend a seminary. She can. But she shouldn't be a teacher there. Theological seminaries are beneficial institutions of higher learning for both men and women. I compiled a short list of seminaries I recommend here.

"I will never stop arguing for the equality of women within the church. How sad it must be to search for God in a book and ignore the wisdom of a living reflection of God, created because it was not good for man to be alone." Colin, CO

No person has more wisdom about God than the Bible has, which is God's word.

"Gabe, I'm curious why you think God used women as the first people to share the gospel news of Jesus' resurrection if God doesn't want women preaching." Morgan, NY

I responded to that argument here. Again, no one is saying that women cannot share the gospel. [Edit: Watch a beautiful example of a woman publicly sharing the gospel here, cued to the spot.] They are not permitted to serve in the formal capacity of overseer, shepherding the flock of God, His church, by His word.

Unfortunately, God's word seems not to matter much to Morgan. He later tweeted, "Thinking this morning about how the arguments for the abolition of slavery in this country went beyond the Bible, and our arguments for LGBTQIA inclusion and egalitarianism should, too." I looked at Morgan's profile and he's currently battling cancer. Morgan, if you don't repent, this false teaching that you've embraced will do far more damage to your soul and the souls of others than cancer is doing to your body. I have prayed for you.

"You're misinterpreting a dodgy passage to justify your misogyny. So-called Christians did that for centuries with slavery and anti-Semitism, too. Pathetic." Anonymous

Dodgy passage? There are literally no examples of women pastors in the Bible. The subject of women in leadership is addressed in more places than 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. Those are just the most hot-button passages. Isaiah 3:12 says that one of the signs God is judging a nation is when women are ruling over men.

We read in 1 Timothy 1:10 that those who enslave others are behaving contrary to the sound teaching of the word of God. So those who once used the Bible to justify enslaving people and those who use the Bible to justify women pastors are both abusing Scripture.

"So you are okay with subjgating women but not having slaves. Got it. Just misogyny not racism. You're a peach." Leigh, TX

A woman sitting in church under the pastor's teaching is no more being oppressed than a man sitting in church under the pastor's teaching. Are men who aren't pastors being subjugated? Then neither are women who aren't pastors.

"Any time you think you are above others and that they don’t have the same rights and privileges as you simply because they were born female or black or with red hair or whatever—you are treating them as less-than. I don’t believe that’s what Jesus would do." Leigh, TX

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness." This is a great privilege. It is not oppression. A woman, especially a wife (Ephesians 5:22-24), is a picture of how the whole church is to submit to Christ. If you find no joy in this, you're saying to God, "I hate your way."

"Aw—thanks for mansplaining the Bible to me. Since I’m just a dumb girl, I couldn’t possibly read it for myself and understand. Dude—I’m a deacon and a Sunday school teacher and a graduate of Baylor. Enjoy your patriarchal church. I’ll stay at mine that values me and all people." Leigh, TX

This may come as a shock to you, but we have great women in our church who serve, teach, understand the Bible, are college graduates, some with advanced degrees, and are greatly valued as much as men. My wife has completed a higher degree of education than I have. She served on a school board before we were married, and I've boasted about that. I'm proud of her. This idea that complementarians don't value women shows your prejudice, not mine.

"Literally every Christian females worst nightmare. [WWUTT's] comments are literally everything I’m working to bring down. Your interpretation of Scripture is harmful and inaccurate and you use God’s Word to oppress women simply because of our gender -- which is not God’s idea." Sierra, PA

When I asked her to clarify how this was a Christian woman's worst nightmare, she refused to engage and insisted I was the one unwilling to reason. If teaching what the Bible says, that women are not to be pastors and seminary professors, is "literally every Christian female's worst nightmare," does she mean to suggest my wife and daughters are living in a perpetual hell? And I'm the unreasonable one?

I have pastored hundreds of men and women. I have never heard -- not one time -- a single complaint from any woman in my church that she's living a real-life nightmare because she's not being invited up to the pulpit to preach. "That's because you're oppressing her! She's afraid of speaking out!" my critics might say (I know this because I've heard them say it). Pardon me for being blunt, but you're being an idiot (Proverbs 12:1).

Do you know what I regularly hear is a Christian woman's worst nightmare? That her husband is not a Christian, that her children are not Christians, or that her parents aren't Christians, and they might die in their sin and go to hell. Then we pray and cry together. My eyes filled with tears just typing that sentence.

In the words of Paul, "Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame" (1 Corinthians 15:34).

"Gabe, it brings me no joy to tell you you're wrong and need to repent. But I will rejoice when you do. If you can't accept disagreement on this small point, you need to examine what you think the gospel actually is. Hint: it isn't having the 'right' ecclesiology." Brent, SC

I tweeted last week that this isn't an essential doctrinal issue, nor am I making it one. A person isn't saved to heaven or condemned to hell based on whether or not they think a woman can be a pastor. While it isn't an essential issue, like I said, it's certainly a very telling one. Does God's design and intention for men and women matter or not?

In the first chapter of the Bible, we read, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:27). In the second chapter, we are given details into the creation of the first man and woman: Adam was formed first, then Eve as his helper (Genesis 2:18). Adam's description of her and his union with her becomes the first song sung in Scripture (Genesis 2:23). These issues are not just important. They're beautiful!

It is a beautiful thing to behold a man and the way God created him, and to behold a woman and the way God created her. He did not create them at the same time. He created them separate and for different purposes, but He redeems them in Christ as fellow heirs of the same reward (1 Peter 3:7). To see a man or a woman as anything other than what God made them to be is to see them as less than what God made them to be.

These issues do not exist in a vacuum. We're having this debate about God's role for men and women in ministry in the midst of a culture that thinks it's criminal to say a man is mentally ill if he desires to mutilate his genitals in order to be a woman. Are we as Christians going to stand on the side of God and His word and what He has said about whom He has created in His image, or aren't we? Are we going to follow His word or the word of the culture?

Joshua said, "Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if if is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:14-15).

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. As the man of my house, it's my responsibility to make that decision for my wife and for my children, and lead them according to His ways. That's in Ephesians 5:25-27 and 6:4. I can confidently conclude this blog saying, "Thus saith the Lord."

Sunday, January 14, 2018

False Alarm: Hawaii's Close Call With a Ballistic Missile


Yesterday, the state of Hawaii fell into a state of panic. At 8:05 a.m, the state's 1.4 million residents and hundreds of thousands of visitors received on their cell phones the following alert: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL." The alert also blared on Hawaiian television stations.

People took screen shots of their phones and starting posting the pictures on social media. Islanders starting tweeting and texting their goodbyes. Parents lowered their children into storm drains. Friends and even complete strangers hugged in the streets and cried tears together.

Within twelve minutes of the alert, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard posted online that it was a false alarm. But it would take 38 minutes for another push-button notification to be sent out to everyone's cell phones informing islanders of the false alarm, and that there was no real danger.

What could possibly have been the cause of such a message? Very simply, it was human error. "A state emergency management employee apparently pushed the wrong button," reported Hawaii News Now. The state's emergency management was attempting to run a drill, but rather than a test, they accidentally ran the real thing.

Considering the rising tensions with North Korea, it's of little wonder why such testing would be so important. North Korea, under their tyrannical leader Kim Jong-un, has demonstrated their nuclear capability, not only by successfully detonating nuclear weapons but also launching an intercontinental missile that can reach Hawaii and further.

It's important to be safe, but surely the islanders were not happy about the unnecessary panic. The governor also expressed his frustration with the bungled drill. But all things considered, yesterday's false alarm could have been worse. A lot worse. And I'm not talking in the sense that it could have really been the real thing.

Had North Korea received word of the drill, which included the words, "This is not a drill," they might have assumed the United States was attempting to launch a preemptive strike. Maybe the U.S. wanted to alert their own residents of an inbound "ballistic missile threat" to prepare them for an inevitable retaliation.

This false alarm, this mistake, this error, could very well have provoked North Korea into launching a nuke. Like I said, it could have gone much, much worse. Praise the Lord that it wasn't.

I pray there are some strong evangelists on Hawaii's islands that are able to use this terrible experience to share the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ will a population of still-shaky people. What if yesterday had been the day you would die? What would have happened to you? Are you prepared to die? Is your family prepared?

What do you think will happen to you on the day that you die? It is an incredibly important question. The Bible says it is appointed for a man once to die, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). If you appeared before God in judgment, what would He say to you? Would He say, "Well done, good and faithful servant" and let you into heaven? Or would Jesus say to you, "Depart from me, I never knew you," and then cast you into hell?

Everyone has sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Sin is why there is so much misery in the world. It's why there's sickness and disease and death. It's why there's evil and injustice. It's why people fear the itchy trigger-fingers of hot-headed dictators that could annihilate millions at the push of a button -- because this world is full of wicked, fallen people.

What we deserve for our sin and rebellion against God is death (Romans 6:23). But two thousand years ago, God sent His Son to this world as a man, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life and died on the cross for our sins. He rose again from the grave in His own body, then ascended into heaven where He is seated at God's right hand. Everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but will have His everlasting life. Our sins are forgiven and we're made innocent before God by faith in Christ.

Everyone who believes in Jesus belongs to Jesus. If you belong to Jesus, you will obey Jesus (1 John 2:4-6). Whoever has Jesus Christ will have eternal life. No matter what happens to you in this life, you will not perish in the next. You will live forever with Him in His eternal kingdom, where there is no more dying, no more tears, no more suffering or panic of any kind (Revelation 21:4).

But whoever does not obey Jesus does not have life, but the wrath of God remains on him (John 3:36). The wrath of God is on every person who doesn't follow Jesus. However you meet your end in this world -- accidental death, fatal disease, old age, or a ballistic missile -- it won't even compare with the suffering that you will endure for all eternity if you didn't believe in Jesus in this life.

But if you do believe in Jesus, the suffering in this world doesn't even compare to the glory that awaits us when we meet Him on the other side. You are saved from your sins by faith. Jesus took the penalty from you on the cross. He took the bomb of God's wrath so you won't ever have to know what that's like. Believe in Him, and do not be afraid. The Lord your God is with you.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bad Examples of Women Pastors (But Great Examples of Godly Women)


In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." The context here is church leadership, an instruction that continues into chapter 3. A woman is not permitted to be a pastor in a church (elder, bishop, overseer, etc.). Only a man can be a pastor.

This instruction is not limited to the time-period in which Paul was writing. It applies to all people in every place at every point in the history of the church. How do we know this? Because Paul goes all the way back to Genesis with his explanation: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor" (verses 13-14).

So the first reason the role of pastor is to be filled by a man is because Adam was formed first, and Eve was formed from Adam as his help-meet. The differences between the sexes and the different roles they are assigned are not a result of the fall. They were established at creation and have applied to all people in all cultures at all times.

The second reason a pastor is to be man is because Adam was not deceived by the serpent, but the woman was deceived and transgressed the law of God. This might seem unfair because Adam certainly sinned as well, and death came to all men because Adam sinned (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21). But Adam wasn't deceived, and Eve was. So whether we're talking about a perfect, sinless world, or the fallen, sinful one we currently inhabit, God intends that a man be the one to shepherd the flock of God (pastor means "shepherd;" see also 1 Peter 5:1-5).

Elsewhere, Paul wrote, "As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak at church" (1 Corinthians 14:33-35).

This doesn't mean a woman is supposed to have duct-tape over her mouth from the moment she walks into church to the moment she walks out. The context is teaching the church, or administering the authority of the word of God over the gathered people of God. The role as overseer is set apart for specifically a man to fill.

Problem solved! (Just kidding, sweetheart.)

This also doesn't mean a church that obeys this instruction is oppressing women. Heavens, no! A woman sitting in that church during a gospel sermon is no more oppressed than any man in the congregation. The truth does not oppress those who listen to it -- it sets them free (John 8:31). It is a woman's delight to learn quietly with all submissiveness, and she does this in honor of the Lord.

Women serve an incredibly important role in the church. If a church was all men and no women, that would be a dysfunctional church (see Titus 2:1-8). The church is to be made up of men and women, young and old, complimenting one another in their strengths and weaknesses, working and growing together so that we may be a functioning body of Christ.

But each according to their own purpose. God made men and women different from day one of creation... sorry, day six. He meant for men to fill certain roles and women to fill certain roles. We are one body in Christ made of individual parts, each functioning in their own way. One person is not to infringe upon another or take it upon themselves to do the task given to someone else. We all submit to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

Bad Arguments for Women Pastors
Over the weekend, a friend got into a discussion over this topic with a feminist, and the feminist retorted with a list of names -- women of the Bible who were more than just "helps" but, in her view, were qualified to be pastors. That list was as follows: "Deborah, Hannah, Miriam, Ruth, Esther, Jael, Proverbs 31, Wisdom personified as woman in Proverbs 8 (present with God at creation), Phoebe, Lydia, Prisca, Mary, Mary Magdalene, [were] all just there 'to help'?"

This is a very common tactic when arguing for why women deserve to be pastors: throw out the name of a woman from the Bible. Boom! But that name is always taken out of context. There are no examples of a woman serving as a pastor in the church. None of the apostles were women, for that matter. I can say "period" and leave it at that. The instruction in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is clear.

But for the sake of teaching, I'd like to go through that list of names and explain why they're actually bad examples. While they are not examples of women pastors, most of them are certainly great examples for being strong women of God.


Deborah
The book of Judges captures a very dark time in Israel's history. In those days there was no king in Israel, and the people did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25). But God gave them judges to be their leaders, decision-makers, and deliverers.

The pattern of the story of Judges goes like this: the people sinned and worshiped false gods, the Lord sent an enemy to punish and oppress them, the people cried out for mercy, so God sent a judge to conquer their enemies and deliver a semi-repentant Israel. Wash, rinse, repeat. Three of the most famous judges were Samson, Gideon, and a woman named Deborah.

Deborah was a prophetess and a God-fearing woman who judged during a time when there were no God-fearing men. In Judges 4, Deborah confronted Barak, commander of the Lord's army, who was reluctant to do what God had told him to do: gather his troops and fight the Canaanites. Instead, Barak told Deborah, "If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go." So Deborah mommied him and led him by the hand to get him to obey God.

If you had been reading through Deuteronomy and Joshua, by the time you got to Judges 4, you'd recognize Israel's digression in faith and obedience. In Deuteronomy 1:15, the tribes of Israel had wise and experienced men as heads over them. In Joshua 24:1, these men met with Joshua to renew their covenant before God. But within a generation, Israel began worshiping the Baals and forgot what the Lord had done for them (Judges 2:10-12).

It got to the point that the men weren't doing what the leaders of Israel were supposed to do. So God placed a woman over them as though to say, "Sure, I'll deliver you from your enemies. But to your shame, I'm going to send a woman to do what no man will do." It was an embarrassment that Deborah was judge, not a high achievement (consider Judges 9:53 where it was to Abimelech's shame that he was killed by a woman and not a man). In Deborah's song of victory, she praised the tribes that stepped up to fight and lambasted those who stayed home (Judges 5:14-18).

Isaiah 3:12 says, "My people -- infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them." It is the judgment of God upon a nation when women occupy the roles that should be filled by men. Barak should have been the judge of Israel, following in the footsteps of Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar before him. But because he was kind of a weenie, God gave Deborah to do what Barak wouldn't.

So using Deborah as an argument for why it's okay for a woman to be a pastor really isn't a good move. It would be to admit, "There are no godly men here, so a woman is going to have to do this job." When a woman is pastor, the church is immature and disobedient, just like Israel was when Deborah was judge. She is a great example of a God-fearing woman. She is not an example of a pastor.

Jael
I confess, this is one of my favorite Bible stories. Still in Judges 4, when Barak succeeded against the Canaanite armies, Sisera, the commander of the Canaanites, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, a descendant of Moses's father-in-law. Sisera hid in her tent and told Jael, "Stand here at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, 'Is anyone here?' say, 'No.'"

When Sisera fell asleep, Jael went and grabbed a tent-peg and a hammer and nailed his head to the ground. Yes, this stay-at-home wife pulled a stake from her tent, went over to where the enemy was sleeping, put the spike on the his temple, and with a mallet in her other hand, she pound, pound, pounded that stake through his head and into the dirt, pinning his cranium to the ground. A woman did that. That is so Judges.

The context of this story further emphasizes the lack of obedience among of the men of Israel. Because Barak hesitated to obey God, the Lord didn't give him the victory over his enemy. Instead, He embarrassed Barak by giving the final blow to the hands of Jael, a humble wife who was not even an Israelite. Likewise, when a woman stands in the pulpit administering the teaching of God over His church, it's an embarrassment to all the men under her.

Go on and call a stay-at-home wife weak. I dare ya.

Hannah
Hannah was one of Elkanah's two wives. His other wife, Peninnah, had children, but Hannah had none, and Peninnah made fun of Hannah for being barren. Troubled in spirit, Hannah prayed fervently before the Lord, and this was at a time when even the high priest, Eli, wasn't seeking God. She asked God to give her a son, and if He would so bless her, she would commit her son to His service.

God was gracious to her, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Samuel, meaning "heard of God," because the Lord heard her and granted her request. Samuel became one of Israel's greatest prophets. He anointed Israel's first king, Saul, and then Saul's successor, David. While Samuel grew in the service of the Lord, Hannah was blessed to have five more children.

And that's the story of Hannah. She is an outstanding example of patient submission and steadfastness. The ridicule of others, including the high priest, did not make her doubt God. She sought the Lord with all her heart. But she was not a person of authority and she never had a leadership role. If a woman wants to become a pastor, and she looks at Hannah as an example, she should consider what Hannah said in 1 Samuel 2:3: "Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are weighed."

Miriam
Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron, and not as great an example of godliness as Hannah was. Miriam is mentioned as a prophetess in Exodus, but this is explicitly in the context of leading other women. Exodus 15:20 says, "Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing."

Unfortunately, Miriam is most remembered for opposing Moses, her brother and Israel's leader. In Numbers 12, she and Aaron took issue with Moses being married to a Cushite woman, but this was only a cover for the real source of their animus: Miriam and Aaron believed they were just as capable and qualified to lead Israel as Moses was. They said, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?"

But Moses was a meek and humble man who did not try to defend himself. Instead, the Lord made Himself heard. He called the three siblings to stand before the tent of meeting, and said:
"Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
When the Lord departed from them, Miriam was struck with leprosy. Moses plead with the Lord on her behalf, and she was healed after seven days. This demonstrated to Miriam that not only was Moses God's chosen prophet, Moses loved her and still interceded for her even when she contested him and thought more highly of herself. It was because Moses did this for her that she was cured. In Deuteronomy 24:9, Moses told the people to remember what God did to Miriam so they would not make the same mistake by forsaking a prophet of God.

Perhaps from this story you recognize the irony of using Miriam as an argument for why a woman can be a pastor. The Lord has spoken clearly concerning this matter: a woman is not to be the teaching authority over a church, no matter how well she thinks she could do that job. She may be a great preacher. But if she thinks that makes her deserving of the position of overseer in Christ's church, she's as prideful as Miriam was.


Ruth and Esther
Just because a woman has a book of the Bible named after her doesn't mean 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is null and void. Context, people! Ruth and Esther were great and godly women, but they weren't pastors. They weren't even authority-figures. Yup, even Queen Esther.

Ruth was a widow from Moab, the daughter-in-law of a Judean widow, Naomi. The two of them were quite destitute when they returned to Judah, Naomi's homeland. But Boaz, their kinsmen redeemer, saw by her works that Ruth was a godly woman (1 Timothy 2:10). He showed kindness to Ruth and Naomi by taking Ruth as his wife. The Lord blessed Boaz and Ruth and they became ancestors to King David and later Christ Himself. Plot twist: the main character of the story actually isn't Ruth. It's Naomi (see Ruth 4:17).

Esther was a queen, but she had no authority. Ahasuerus (or Xerxes in some translations) was the reigning monarch. Do you remember how Esther became queen? Ahasuerus' wife, Vashti, stood up to him because she wouldn't make an appearance at his party as his arm-candy. So the king had her banished and replaced her with Esther, who had so little authority that if she entered the king's presence without being summoned, he could have her executed (Esther 4:11).

When the existence of the Jews was threatened by Haman's evil plot, Esther, herself a Jew, risked her own life to save her people. She was shrewd and she was wise in the way she earned the favor of the king so that an entire race of people would be delivered. The Lord put her in such a position "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14). She was perfectly safe living out her days as queen. But Esther was obedient to God above all else, even if her obedience had cost her everything. Obedience is not a feminist's forte.

Proverbs 8 and 31
The picture of wisdom personified as a woman in Proverbs 8 is in contrast with the forbidden woman of crooked speech mentioned in the previous chapters. Which one will you go after: the adulteress who tempts the sinful passions of the flesh, lusts in darkness, leads to death, and forgets her covenant with God (Proverbs 2:16-17); or wisdom who is virtuous, is the way of kings and princes, walks in righteousness, leads to abundant life, and has been with the Lord since the beginning (Proverbs 8:13, 21-22)? The comparison is summarized in the next chapter. See Proverbs 9.

Liberal theologians love to use the personification of wisdom as a woman. Heretic author William Paul Young, in his manure-pile-of-a-book The Shack, even made wisdom the fourth person of the Trinity. Young's god was three parts woman and one part man. But Proverbs 8 doesn't mean wisdom is literally a woman any more than Jerusalem was literally a whore (Ezekiel 16) or that our best deeds before a holy God are literally a woman's soiled menstrual cloth (Isaiah 64:6). Point made?

The Proverbs 31 woman I rarely see in a feminist. Okay, I've never seen the Proverbs 31 woman in a feminist. The feminist is far too full of herself. But a woman who fears the Lord, "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and she does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her" (Proverbs 31:25-28).

The Proverbs 31 woman is a wife and a mother who loves her husband and children, works at home, and is submissive to her husband, "that the word of God may not be reviled" (Titus 2:5). If that sounds awful and oppressive to you, you have no joy in Christ. A wife's submission to her husband is not oppression -- it is the delight of her heart, a willful obedience to God as a picture of the way the whole church is to submit to Christ (Ephesians 5:22-24).

Likewise, it is a joy for a woman in the church to humble herself before God, heeding the roles God has designated for men and those He has designated for women. Whether a wife, mother, or single, it is a woman's pleasure to follow in quiet submission and not rebel against what God has ordained.


Phoebe, Lydia, Prisca, Mary, and Mary Magdalene (Bonus: Junia)
Now we get to the grab-bag of names in the New Testment, none of whom are examples of women as pastors. I want to emphasize again that these women are all great examples of godliness. But strong women in the Bible do not equate to being pastors. A submissive woman is a strong woman. When anyone, man or woman, tries to put themselves in a place God has not given to them to serve, that is not strength. It's prideful, self-serving, and rebellious.

Phoebe is the first name mentioned in Paul's list of thanks at the end of Romans. She is a servant of the church at Cenchreae, neighbors to Corinth (which was where Paul was when he wrote to the church in Rome). The argument is often made that Phoebe was a deacon in the church, given that the English word "servant" is translated from the feminine form of the Greek word for "deacon." Wherever one falls in the translation debate of Romans 16:1, you would only be arguing for whether a woman can be a deacon, not whether she can be an elder or an overseer. An overseer must have an ability to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). A deacon does not have to meet that qualification.

After Pheobe comes Prisca (Romans 16:3). Prisca is a variation of the name Priscilla, wife of Aquila. They were a husband and wife evangelism duo, their most famous convert being Apollos. At the time they encountered him, Apollos was not yet part of the church and did not know the way of Christ (Acts 18:24-28). Women absolutely can evangelize and share the gospel with others. Preaching to unbelievers is not the same thing as being an overseer in the church. It's also okay for a sister to encourage a brother in the Lord. But this should not be done in private. Priscilla was with her husband when they taught Apollos.

Lydia was Paul's first convert in Philippi (Acts 16:14), and it's possible that the church at Philippi met in her home (v.40). She was the matriarch of her household which indicates that she may have been a widow. She was also wealthy as a "seller of purple goods." But she would not have been the pastor or an elder in the Philippian church, and there's nothing that suggests she was.

Mary was the mother of Jesus, a great woman of God. But again, not a pastor. Mary Magdalene was the first to tell the disciples that the tomb of Christ was empty and He had risen from the dead (John 20:1-2). What a gracious and wonderful thing that God chose women to proclaim this good news first, during a time when a woman's testimony was not even admitted in court. Indeed, women are just as instrumental as men in the spread of the gospel. A woman can do that without being a pastor.

Finally, there's Junia. In Romans 16:7, Paul says, "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me." The NASB uses the names Andronicus and Junias, and says they "are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me."

Some interpret "outstanding among the apostles" to mean that Andronicus and Junias were outstanding apostles. But all this means is that Andronicus and Junias were highly praised by the apostles, not that they were apostles themselves. Besides, there's debate as to whether Junia/Junias is a man or a woman.

Conclusion
The apostles were men specifically chosen by Christ, and pastors are men who continue to teach the word of Christ as first administered by the apostles, that we may grow together in love (Ephesians 4:11-16). Though it is not for a woman to fill this role, I cannot emphasize enough how needed women are to the service and growth of the church. The men must include and not hinder them.

Furthermore, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that women grow in godliness and holiness. Listen to the preaching of the word, and do what it says. Your selfish frustration in reading "quietly with all submissiveness" will cause you to miss the instruction "let a woman learn!" A strong woman of God is supposed to be a woman educated in the ways of God. Feminists hate this. They don't want women to be strong in the faith. They want them to be weak (2 Timothy 3:6). Strong women aren't easily manipulated by their lies -- the same lies of that ancient serpent who hissed at Eve, "Did God really say...?" (Genesis 3:1)

Men and women are fellow heirs in the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). Though God made us different and assigned to us different roles, we are to be one in the Spirit and in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:38). Let us do our work without anger or quarreling, bitterness or jealousy. Humble yourself before the Lord, and at the proper time, He will exalt you. Consider others needs ahead of your own, in love and submission to our heavenly Father, to the praise of His glorious grace.

For those who read this article a second time, you might notice a few changes. Nothing was omitted, but a few additions were made. I took a nap and had a couple more thoughts. Thanks for reading and sharing!