Wayne GrudemWayne Grudem is Research Professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix Seminary and the former president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. A graduate of Harvard, Westminster Theological Seminary, and the University of Cambridge, Grudem strongly supports traditional roles for men and women within the church. He spoke with Beliefnet editor Laura Sheahen about his book Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism, which lists church activities that should be available to men only or to both men and women.

Your new book is about women’s roles in the church. Can you go over the Bible verses you base your position on?

I base my position on a pattern in the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, where there is never an instance where a woman does teaching of God’s word to an assembled group of men. It was the priests in the Old Testament who did the Bible teaching or the teaching of God’s law, and they were all men.

In the New Testament, elders all had to be men. So that’s consistent with Paul’s specific instruction in 1 Timothy 2:12 where Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first then Eve and Adam was not deceived. But, the woman who was deceived then became a transgressor.” That is not an isolated passage.

Your book includes specific lists about which roles should be open to women. What motivated you to create those lists? Were people asking you how to address gray areas with women in various ministry roles?  

It was more [of a] response to things that were being written and published. But when I would speak about appropriate roles for men and women in the church, I would get a lot of practical questions: Should a woman teach an adult Sunday School class? Should she teach a college class?

The lists go over activities that you think should be restricted to men, like being president of a denomination or presiding over a baptism, and activities that can be open to either men or women, like teaching high school Bible study. Could you explain how you broke the lists down?

The three lists are governing activities, teaching activities, and areas of public recognition such as ordination. I came up with the [first] two lists because they correspond to what Paul talks about in 1 Timothy 2:12, where he says, “I do not permit a woman to teach” (that’s the teaching list) “or to exercise authority over a man” (that’s the governing list). Then [we have] the question of public visibility or recognition, [because] it seems to me there’s some areas of public recognition that should be open to both men and women. And in these lists there are dozens of activities about which I want to encourage churches that both men and women should participate.

I understand that others can differ with me on where they would make specific application. It’s a question of praying for God’s wisdom and seeking to understand scripture as best we can. The application of scripture to specific situations of life not named in the Bible is always a matter for mature wisdom. These lists give my attempt at making a judgment call on these activities in the church. They come out of my experience as an elder in a Vineyard church, a Southern Baptist church, and an independent Bible church. And they come out of 29 years of teaching experience in the classroom.

You say, in general, that it’s fine for women to write books on Bible interpretation, even though you don’t think women should teach, say, Bible classes at a Christian college. It could be argued that some books do have pastoral authority. They might have more teaching or preaching impact than listening to a pastor’s sermon. How would you feel if it were discovered that something like Mere Christianity, which has impacted and taught a lot of people, had been written by a woman?

It wouldn’t bother me--except for the dishonesty in pretending to be C. S. Lewis! In attempting to apply the Bible wisely to life, there are two principles. There is the principle of Acts 18:26, where Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside and together they instructed him in the way of God more accurately. The Greek verb for "instructed" there is plural. That means in a private conversation--something analogous to a home Bible study--there’s approval given to men and women together talking about the meaning of the text of scripture. It’s different from what Paul prohibits in 1 Timothy 2:12, which is the public teaching of the word of God to an assembled church. When I read a book written by a woman, it’s a much closer analogy to a private conversation between the author and me.

You write that it’s permissible for women to write study notes for a Bible. Some might argue this would be women interpreting the Bible and instructing numerous readers, for example at a large Bible study.

The question is, again, is it more like a pastor teaching a church, as in 1 Timothy 2, or being an elder over a church, as in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3, or is it more like a private conversation with Aquila and Priscilla, as in Acts 18:26? A woman writing about the interpretation of the Bible doesn’t have the recognized authority or leadership role over the congregation that a pastor has. When we invite a pastor to preach at our church on Sunday morning, the leadership is essentially saying, we endorse what this man is teaching, and you should believe it and follow it—not to suspend all judgment, but in general, that his teaching is sound. There’s an endorsement by the church that comes with that preaching and Bible teaching role. That’s not the case with a book written by a woman, which is just her giving her viewpoints, as I give my viewpoint when I write a book.

What is your position on Joyce Meyer?

I don’t think she should teach the Bible to assembled groups of men. I think she’s doing what 1 Timothy 2:12 says not to do.

What sort of negative consequences might result from Joyce Meyer teaching a large auditorium of men and women?

Well, I have no doubt when a woman teaches God’s word and prays and trusts God that there are some positive results, because God’s word itself has power. It’s truth, and he blesses his word.

But I still think that a woman who serves as a pastor, preaching to both men and women, is disobeying the word of God. There are always negative consequences to that. First, there will be an erosion of trust in the Bible and obedience to the Bible, generally in the congregation, because the methods of interpretation used to justify what she is doing often involve misinterpretation of scripture or eroding of the authority of scripture. In more liberal churches [where women are ordained] there’s been an amazing decline in membership. It hasn’t been the path to blessing.

Also, there will be an erosion of male leadership in the family because the modeling of female leadership in the pastorate will be reflected in a lessening of male leadership in the home. There will be a resulting increase in gender identity confusion among boys and girls growing up in the church. I think also that anyone who lives in a pattern of constant disobedience to the word of God--if a woman does this, she is opening herself up to the danger of the withdrawal of God’s hand of protection and blessing on her life.

Could you give an example?

Judy Brown is one example that I mention. [She] contributed a chapter to [the book] Discovering Biblical Equality. She was an Assemblies of God pastor or maybe Foursquare, I’m not sure. And she actually, sadly, is in prison in Virginia for attempted murder. It’s tragic.

You think perhaps her situation is related to her views about women preaching?

It’s a whole decade or more of strongly promoting women’s ordination. Someone could say, “Haven’t there been a lot of men pastors who have fallen into very harmful and destructive sin?” And I agree there have. Often, in those cases, there are other things in their lives that people who knew them can point to, such as pride or untruthfulness or misuse of money. But in this case it seems to me there’s an area of disobedience to the command of scripture regarding male leadership and teaching in the church.

What do you think the church in America would be like if everyone followed the guidelines in this book?

Healthier, stronger. Both men and women would have a greater sense of joy in fulfilling the roles that God has described for us in his word. Whenever there’s obedience to the word of God, he brings blessing. Throughout the history of the church and even today, the vast majority of large, growing, successful churches are pastored by men. When I visit churches that follow these guidelines, I see a wholesomeness, a joy, a sense of wholeness in being who God has made us to be as men and women. God brings blessing when we obey all of his word.
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