On Women and Preaching, a guest post

Thankful to be hosting my husband, Ethan Merck, on here today.
In the discussion about women preaching from the front on Sunday – the current surge of concerned discussion – I want to acknowledge that many women I know have been hurt and disadvantaged by people applying principles in ways that go beyond Scripture.

The wrong is real. The hurt is real. The seasons of recovery under God’s love and grace needed are real. Many churches have a lot of changing, experimenting, and apologizing/repenting to do in regard to women using their gifts to bless the body…

There is a place for dealing gently with those in a pendulum swing and wrestling through the key passages again. This also applies to more isolated and younger churches anywhere in the world who are working through these things for the first time.

But let us also be clear about something, that nothing about the nature of God’s Word has changed. We may need to revisit passages and allow what they say to fundamentally reshape our understanding and practice. But God’s Word is still what it always has been: flawless, timeless, consistent and complete words from the mouth of God delivered through Spirit controlled human instruments.

Discussions I’ve seen on whether women preaching up front is a matter of conscience or a matter of sin generally point in the right direction. But in my opinion, the way people are talking often misses the key issues.

We have to push to the side testimonies of our own experience and blessing – whether for or against. These just aren’t the issue. Similarly, general calls to stop repressing women, or general calls to obey the Bible are also unhelpful in stimulating productive dialogue. They are likely to be heard only by those who already agree with us.

The heart of the matter is what the Bible is in its very nature, and principles for how we interpret it (hermeneutics.)

The Bible’s own starting place for itself is that it is *all* the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17, 2 Pet 1:19-21). That has implications. One of those implications is that the Bible alone is qualified to interpret itself, far and away before we speculate meaning from another basis.

We must look at what is said directly and clearly, and start from there. Wherever we end up, it must fit within what is said directly and clearly. Introducing a view that undercuts clear New Testament teaching, or tries to “protect” a passage from contradicting what is seen elsewhere in the Bible? That is a clear sign of a problem in me, not in the text.

The Bible doesn’t *contain* God’s Word, it is God’s Word (2 Tim 3:16-17). All of it, in every part, in every way. If we start trying to defend the Bible from itself, and think it falls on us to use our cultural instincts to discern what is from God and what is only Paul’s personal opinion – I am afraid we have joined Thomas Jefferson’s Bible-redacting club. The same is true of forcing passages through a test of historical beliefs imported from our community of faith.

If we start down that road, with scissors either physical, cultural or historical, after a little while we may find we have destroyed the only foundation we have.

So let’s make sure our discussions give God’s Word its proper place, and that our aim is to swim always and only within its richness. Let’s discuss women’s roles in Jesus’ church from that place, laying aside any mantles of self-righteously assumed roles – whether as defenders of historical beliefs or defenders of oppressed women. The God whose Word we hold is worthy of our humility before Him. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”


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