A Critique of the book Two Views on Women in Ministry

Two Views of Women In Ministry

Introduction

            One of the most heated debates in the contemporary church today has to do with the role that women are to play in the ministry. No matter what side of the debate an individual may find her or himself, the debate seems to be ongoing with no definitive conclusion. On one side of the debate stands the egalitarian—The individual who believes that ministry opportunities should be equal for both genders; on the other side stands the complementarian—The individual who believes that ministry roles should differ between genders. Though this debate has been a matter of discussion for many years, it is still far from being over in the minds of many. Even though this is such a heated discussion with so many different facets, it should not be a debate in which temperate Christians can discuss the issue from an unbiased and biblical frame of mind that appears to be the theme in Two Views of Women in MinistryTwo Views of Women in Ministry takes the views of four contributors on the subject, with two from the egalitarian side and two from the complementarian side. The four contributors are Linda L. Belleville, Craig L. Blomberg, Craig S. Keener, and Thomas R. Schreiner, with Stanley N. Gundry and James R. Beck as the editors of the book. Belleville and Keener present their case for egalitarian side of the argument, while Blomberg and Schreiner present the complementarian side.

Brief Summary

Two Views of Women In Ministry            The nature of this book is more of an essay than it is an exegesis of the egalitarian or complementarian thought. Two Views of Women in Ministry is a book that is written as four separate essays with four separate approaches on the subject. Each author gives their defense side of the argument that they stand on. Immediately after each author presents their side of the argument, the other three authors present a concise response to the author’s article. Typically one author is in agreement with the main article and two are against; this, of course, is to be expected. The most concise way to summarize this work can be done by looking at each individual authors approach to the articles in which they wrote.

Linda Belleville is the author of the first essay, which happens to be on the egalitarian perspective. Belleville begins by acknowledging the division about the discussion of what churches have experienced over the last fifty years.[1] Belleville points to the major strides in gender equality in the secular world and transitions towards asking the question of why this is not the case in most evangelical denominations today.[2] Belleville presents that the problem is more than just an argument of gender, but rather an argument on what the Bible teaches on hierarchical structures in the male and female relationship.[3]

Craig L. Blomberg is the second author presented and he is the first to present the complementarian perspective. Blomberg theme is predominately one that is based on balance in the issue. Blomberg immediately acknowledges the hurt that has been felt on both sides of the argument. However, Blomberg stresses that the issue is more than emotions to some than it is of being true to what the scriptures teach.[4] Blomberg’s essay highlights many of the classical points of discussion from more of a moderate view on the complementarian approach.

Craig S. Keener is the third author to present his essay and the second to present the egalitarian perspective. Keener immediately addresses his approach to the subject when he states that, “The Bible permits women’s ministry under normal circumstances but prohibits it in exceptional cases, in which case we should allow it under most circumstances.”[5] Keener’s approach is similar to Belleville in that he points to the typical Old Testament characters that were women.  Keener takes a different approach though, trying to liken Deborah with that of the New Testament apostles.[6]  Keener’s approach appears to be more based on the practical aspects of women in ministry.

The final author to present his argument is Thomas R. Schreiner. Schreiner writes from the complementarian perspective and immediately notes that his movement [MDW1] has historically been the consensus[7] of the church. Schreiner attempts to bridge the divide between the two views by illustrating the importance of women in the ministry. However, Schreiner is unapologetic for his complementarian beliefs and continues to illustrate that the role of women in the church is equally important with men; however, it is still different in regards to leading men.[8]

Critical interaction with the author’s work

            The book Two Views on Women in Ministry provides a wide range of discussion on the role of women in the ministry. The book is filled with a thoughtful analysis on the subject from both sides of the fence. Each other attempts at making their case as not only the most biblical approach to the understanding women’s role in ministry, but also the most judicious. With all of the thought-provoking analysis that the book provides, it could be possible that one could still walk away after reading the book with an undecided point of view on the subject. However, the likelihood of that happening is low, because many approach the subject with a predetermined mind before they begin to read. Nevertheless, Two Views on Women in Ministry allows a fair and balanced approach of discussion on the subject that has been greatly needed in the evangelical world concerning the role of women in contemporary churches today.

The nature of Two views on Women in Ministry is more along the lines of a compilation of essays than really a set analysis on the subject of women’s role in ministry. Because of this, the analysis of the author’s theological views must be addressed on an individual basis. Though analysis of the work must be gauged on an individual basis, one point stands for sure in all authors and that they all stand firm in the position in which they write. Ultimately, the final conclusion of the reader depends upon which author he or she believes to prove their point of position the best. However, no matter which way this is assessed, it cannot be done without an emotion, no matter whom it is reading the text.

After further inspection on the topic at hand, it is obvious that the debate cannot be discussed without some form of emotion felt on either side of the discussion. This thought is presented throughout the book by every author. Though this may be the case, this the reason of contention by both groups who do not necessarily have to deal with whether or not women are allow to be involved in ministry, but rather if they are to be in charge.[9] The way in which this argument hinges on the interpretation of several key verses are found throughout the Bible. Each author contributes their deductions on the verse in question and then produces a conclusion based off of various commentators that are in their corner of the argument. For example, Belleville begins her defense of the egalitarian perspective by deconstructing the importance of the gender creation in Genesis chapters one and two. Belleville attempts to dismiss the order of creation and the naming of Eve by Adam by using her own previous works as a reference.[10] This not only shows an agenda, but also calls the sincerity of the author into question. This would be considered a weakness in the work that could be illustrated by both sides of the aisle, but will not for the sake of brevity.

Looking at the work in its entire, it is hard to say whether or not one specific goal has been accomplished; however, it is sufficient to say that each author attempted their best in stating their case for their position. Throughout the book, each author attempted to draw up his or her discourse for perspective. All authors took the usual verses to task in the argument, but were faithful to illustrate their own commentary and case. For example, one particular verse that each author commented on was 1Timothy 2:11 “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence (KJV).” This verse is for obvious reasons a very important verse for both sides of the argument. For the complementarian perspective, the verse is a foundational verse for the case that women should not exercise the office of the pastor.[11] For the egalitarian perspective, this is a verse that has been grossly misunderstood.[12] Some scholars from this perspective assume that Paul would be inconsistent if he truly meant that women were to teach.[13] Some scholars believe that Paul is referring here that church services were segregated by gender, which was similar to what took place in synagogues.[14] However, on the other hand, this is called a rouse from the complementarian camp that views this as nothing more than explaining away the context.[15]

After careful examination of the authors, several conclusions can be made on their approach of the subject. First, the foundation of Belleville’s argument is important on the hierarchical structure of the church. Belleville attempts to deconstruct various key verses in the first chapters of Genesis and in the Pauline epistles to further her argument. However, she places more importance on the relative experiences than on the interpretation of the word of God. For example, Belleville’s use of widows as deacons in the church is rather born out of attempting to parcel together a train of thought than a good interpretation of the New Testament conditions of a widow. However, this can be understood by Belleville’s desire to bring the topic to an end for all.[16] Nevertheless, her argument does not merit that conclusion.

Second, Blomberg’s main argument for the complementarian perspective lies in the design of male and female in the creation of the home and the family.[17] Blomberg’s focus is that the consistency of the roles of men and women throughout the Bible has more often than not displayed the men in the roles of leadership.[18]However, Blomberg appears to write on the subject from a very hesitant stance. It is very obvious from the beginning that Blomberg writes from a very light form of complementarianism. He spends much of his time illustrating the importance of gifted women in other roles of leadership, except as pastors and elders. The end of his essay, he leaves the reader to decide the conclusion on his or her oneself.

Third, Keener’s defense of egalitarianism can be found in that he does not differentiate between women in ministry and women in leadership. This is a different approach at the subject than Belleville; however, it appears to have more continuity in thought than Belleville’s arguments. Keener attempts to develop his support for women in ministry throughout the Bible; however, he ultimately places much of his arguments on assumption. For example, Keener argues that not allowing women to pastor is akin to Jesus not allowing Gentiles to follow him![19] Keener makes much of his focus on experience and not enough on exposition of the Scriptures.

Lastly, Schreiner presents the final defense of the complementarian perspective and places much of his emphasis on exegesis of the Scriptures. Schreiner spends much of his time on several key verses in Paul’s writings that have to deal with women in the church, and spends much of his time on 1 Timothy 2:12.[20] Schreiner’s approach appears to be more consistent in his discourse and also appears to spend less focus on experiential arguments for his perspective. Schreiner also portrays a sense of importance to women in the church; however, he is consistent in his argument that they were never meant to lead the church. [21]

CONCLUSION

            Looking at what other reviews had to say about the book is quite interesting. One review in particular calls the book a work that does not offer anything really new on the discussion.[22] Possibly some points made in the work are nothing more than what has already been noted over the last fifty years and has really taken up attention. Whatever the case may be, many points of this work have emotional connotations that lead back to the authors that penned them. This, of course, is to be expected. The debate of women in ministry has been one that has been discussed and argued for some years now and will not end with the publishing of a book like this. However, that does not negate the need for a book like Two Views of Women in Ministry.  This book does more than provide the answer for what perspective is the right perspective; it provides the prospective of the “other side” that the predetermined reader comes from before reading this work. That is one of the greatest reasons for any student of the Scriptures to read this book and why it should be considered a must for both sides of the discussion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Allen, Holly Catterton, Deborah K. Hinkel, Joy Fagan, Robbie F. Castleman, and Susan E. Payne. “Two Views on Women in Ministry.” Christian Education Journal 3, no. 2 (2006): 371-91, http://search.proquest.com/docview/205468284?accountid=12085.

 

Beck, James R. (Ed.). Two Views on Women in Ministry. Revised ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.

 

Bruce, F. F. Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.

 

Dunn, James D. G. Romans. 1-8. Dallas, Tex: Word Books, 1988.

 

_______________. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub, 1998

 

Elwell, Walter.  Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.  2d ed.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2001.

 

Erickson, Millard.  Christian Theology.  2d ed.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998.

 

Hawthorne, Gerald F., Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1993.


[1] James R. Beck (Ed.). Two Views on Women in Ministry. Revised ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.), 21.

[2] Ibid., 23.

[3] Ibid.., 24.

[4] Ibid., 119.

[5] Ibid. , 206.

[6] Ibid., 212.

[7] Ibid., 266.

[8] Ibid., 322.

[9] Ibid., 23, 322.

[10] Ibid. 28.

[11] Ibid., 308.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Bruce, F. F. Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977.), 467.

[14] Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1993.), 590.

[15] Beck., 308.

[16] Holly Catterton Allen, Deborah K. Hinkel, Joy Fagan, Robbie F. Castleman, and Susan E. Payne. “Two Views on Women in Ministry.” Christian Education Journal 3, no. 2 (2006): 371-91, (http://search.proquest.com/docview/205468284?accountid=12085.),

[17] Beck., 181.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid. 223.

[20] Ibid. 309-316.

[21] Ibid. 322.

[22] Allen and Hinkel, 2.

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