The extraordinary belief that women should be forbidden from teaching men the Bible, or 'doctrine,' is held by only a handful of Southern Baptist leaders, including at least one agency head and a few strategically placed trustees in various agencies. Unfortunately, the majority of Southern Baptists let them dictate policy for the entire convention.
Let me reiterate for those who rarely read posts and jump straight to the comment section: This post is not addressing the 'office' of pastor. The BFM 2000 does that quite clearly. This post is gently rebuking those who would justify the removal of a female Hebrew professor, as well as a female history professor in 2004, simply because they are women teaching men the Bible.
The Trustees of SWBTS
It can easily be said that the belief which leads to the forbidding of a woman professor teaching a man Hebrew, or 'biblical doctrine,' or giving that woman a 'position' of authority in the classroom over men, was not the predominate belief of the Southwestern Theological Seminary trustees in 2002. Those 2002 trustees are the ones who unanimously hired Dr. Klouda to the position of professor of Hebrew at SWBTS at the recommendation of Dr. Ken Hemphill.
It can also be said that this extraordinarily narrow belief that a woman should not teach a man Hebrew, or 'Biblical doctrine,' is the view of President Paige Patterson who was hired as President of SWBTS in 2003, after giving his promise that he had no intention of removing women from the theology faculty (see June 24, 2003 press conference and this article about a private meeting with faculty in 2003). It is obvious that Paige Patterson's narrow view of women led him to force Dr. Klouda out of her position as professor of Hebrew. Since my post went public, several people have emailed me saying that there is at least one other female on SWBTS faculty who has been forced out due to gender, but unfortunately, I do not have enough information to verify if that is the case or not. Nevertheless, Southern Baptists need to realize that just ONE unjust forced removal of an SBC employee based upon gender is ONE too many. If we don't correct the problem, the courts may correct it for us. The plea of immunity may not hold water when the forced removal based on gender is an action that is CONTRARY to the position of our convention's offical statement of doctrine.
I have said over and over for the past year that the very serious problem in the SBC is the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation by demanding conformity on very rigid doctrinal interpretations of Scripture. In other words, there are a handful of influential people in the SBC who are seeking to impose their doctrinal interpretations on the entire convention -- interpretations that go FAR beyond our BFM 2000. If we do not speak up and speak out, regarding various interpretations with which we disagree, including this view that a women cannot teach a man, then we might just find those narrow views becoming convention policy post de facto (after the act) -- after several women have been hurt by our leaders' actions.
In Dr. Klouda's case, it is possible that SWBTS trustees were never informed that Dr. Klouda was being forced out because she was a women. It is feasible that Dr. Klouda never said anything about her gender discrimination out of fear of not being able to obtain good references for future employment. The SWBTS trustees will need to answer what they did know, and what they did not know, about the circumstances related to the quiet removal of Dr. Klouda because of gender. However, it is a matter of public record that SWBTS trustees in 2002 had absolutely no problem with a woman teaching Hebrew to men or teaching men how to properly exegete the Bible (more than half the Bible is written in Hebrew). For a very successful and highly acclaimed professor to be forced out by the President because she is a woman, possibly puts SWBTS in serious legal jeopardy, not to mention accreditaion problems and the angst in the hearts of a majority of Southern Baptists who always demand that we treat our convention empoloyees in a moral, ethical and Christian manner.
The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 does not forbid a woman from 'preaching,' 'teaching,' or 'proclaiming' the gospel of Jesus Christ to men. Dr. Bill Merrill and Suzie Hawkins, two of the most conservative Southern Baptists I have ever known, have spoken publicly and on the record regarding this specific issue. Bill is the former VP of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee and Suzie Hawkins is the wife of O.S. Hawkins, President of the Annuity Board of the SBC. Suzie happened to be a member of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Committee. The following is taken directly from a Baptist Press news article dated June 7, 2001 where both Bill and Suzie respond to an interview with Ann Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, and an alleged misunderstanding by the CBS interviewer regarding what the BFM 2000 has to say about women. The interview in question was from a broadcast on CBS Television News Program '60 Minutes.' ---
Susie Hawkins of Dallas, a member of the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee, shares Lotz's desire to see women empowered for Christian service. But Hawkins suspects the characterization that there can be no women preachers in the SBC as a mistatement of the BFM 2000 (My editorial comment: Suzie uses the word "preachers" intentially instead of "pastors." 'Preach' is Gk. kerusso which means to 'proclaim' - as a rooster proclaims the rising of the sun --- preachers proclaim the risen SON). Again, to say there can be no woman preachers in the SBC is a misstatement of the SBC's doctrinal statement. Instead, she said, Article 6 of the BFM, dealing with the Church, states that "the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture."
Hawkins added, "Nowhere does it say that women can't proclaim the gospel. In fact, it is in this article that women are affirmed in the statement as being 'gifted for service.'" Hawkins noted that Lotz "never pressed the issue of women pastoring" in the 60 Minutes interview, but related the example of Mary Magdalene bringing the message of Christ to others.
Her suspicion seems to be confirmed in an interview of Lotz by Jim Jones of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last year. Lotz stated that she agreed with conservatives who say a woman should not be a senior pastor. "I know Christians disagree on this issue, but I believe God has called me into the ministry where I am," she said.
Hawkins added, "In our own Southern Baptist tradition we have the obvious examples of missionaries Lottie Moon and Bertha Smith who were used greatly by God. But Mary Magdalene was not the spiritual authority for the disciples. She was their co-laborer, their partner in spreading the gospel."
From other interviews, Lotz has stated that she does not see herself as assuming an authoritative role when teaching. "I feel when I stand up in a pulpit I'm not coming from a position of authority," she said in an April 5, 1999, Christianity Today article. "Everywhere I go, I'm invited; if men have invited me [to speak], I'm under the authority of that committee. But I don't accept the fact that as a woman I can't preach to or teach men. My authority is the authority of God's Word." (WB's editorial comment: This is exactly what Suzie Hawkins and the BFM 2000 Committee say the BFM 2000 means)
Hawkins also disputed the characterization of the BFM Study Committee as "an elitist group of men that issued some decree." Instead, she reminded, the committee was appointed in 1999 by then-SBC President Paige Patterson and included theologians, ministers and laymen, with two of the participants being women. "Upon the discussion of the issue of women in ministry, I am eager for others to know that the men on the committee were more than willing to hear the women's perspective." Once the revised statement was submitted to Southern Baptist messengers meeting last June in Orlando, Fla., it was approved overwhelmingly as the new doctrinal statement for the largest non-Catholic denomination.
Bill Merrell, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention relations, agreed that the reference to the decision by messengers to last year's convention was misapplied in the case of the 60 Minutes interview. "The Southern Baptist Convention position is plainly stated in the Baptist Faith and Message that we understand the pastoral office to be reserved to men as qualified in the Scripture. To my knowledge, Anne Graham Lotz makes no claim to be a pastor. She exhorts and teaches and does so, I think, with a high degree of excellence."
Unlike some in our convention who wish to use the BFM 2000 as a 'doctrinal' club, I affirm the right for those who forbid a woman to teach or preach the Bible to disagree with the position of the BFM 2000. I will, however, seek to hold accountable those who forcibly exclude Southern Baptists from service and employment in cooperative areas of ministry in the SBC for doctrinal reasons that go beyond the BFM 2000.
We have all kinds of examples of women teaching men in Baptist history. Spurgeon learned the doctrines of grace from his family's female cook. Lady Huntington taught many Baptist men the Scriptures in her home in the 18th century. Lottie Moon led several men to faith in Christ in China and discipled them quite vigorously. Mrs. Criswell taught men the Bible in the auditorium of FBC for years. LIFEWAY clears $750,000 every time Beth Moore holds a Bible conference in a major city, and not everyone present is of the female persuasion. Where would we be without our own mothers? I could go on, and on, and on. Some have countered these examples with a notion that a woman can teach the Bible to a 'boy' until he reaches the age of twelve, as one commentor on my blog proposed, but that absurdity reminds me more of the Pharisees of Jesus day, and many radical fundamentalists in the Middle East in our own day, than the Southern Baptists I have known and loved for the past 45 years.
Let's get it straight. Women can teach and preach the Bible. They have. They will. They shall continue. The BFM 2000 affirms this. So does the Bible.
The Holy Bible Clearly Affirms Women Teaching Men
What is really odd to me is the fact that all the passages in the New Testament which speak of women prophesying (I Corinthians 11:5), participating in the gifts on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), being equal to men (Galatians 3:28), and multiple other texts, too numerous to mention here, are all ignored to jump to I Timothy 2:12 and Paul's statement to Timothy "I suffer not a woman to teach nor usurp authority over a man."
There are many ways to interpret this verse. The BFM 2000 Committee applies this verse, and others, to a prohibition of women serving in the office of pastor. Let me be clear, again,that this post is not an attempt to oppose the prohibition of women pastors. As stated, there are other texts that deal with that particular subject. Dr. Klouda did not desire to be a pastor. Dr. Klouda was not ordained to the ministry. Dr. Klouda AFFIRMED THE BFM 2000.
She was removed as a professor because a very narrow interpretation of this verse that says a 'woman' is forbidden to hold a position of 'authority' over a man or 'teach' a man --- period. This verse, according to those who hold this narrow view, goes far beyond the office of pastor. WOMEN SHOULD BE MOTHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS - and they should not hold a position of authority over a man, whether it be a professor, teacher, police officer, president, etc . . . and for heaven's sake, they should NEVER teach the BIBLE to a man. I wish to show this interpreation cannot be upheld by a proper exegesis of the text.
I believe every word of the Bible. I am an inerrantist. I believe every statement of I Timothy 2. But my interpretation of I Timothy 2 is consistent with the rest of the Bible and exalts women to their proper New Covenant position. The following is an exegesis of I Timothy 2 that has been graciously provided by evangelical conservative Pastor Dave Johnson and his fellow elders at The Church of the Open Door. This church, a large, conservative evangelical fellowship of believers in Minneapolis, Minnesota has reached thousands of people for Christ. I believe the following will be a help to all us Southern Baptist pastors who are trying to resist this very narrow view of women not that is creeping into the SBC, allegedly based upon I Timothy 2.
Again, this exegesis is to deal exclusively with women’s roles as they relate to I Timothy 2:9-15. Again, there is NO attempt in this post to justify women pastors. I am showing that the the narrow interpretation of I Timothy 2 which leads some to remove women as professors of Hebrew and theology because they 'teach men' the Bible cannot be justified from I Timothy 2. The first portion deals with the exegetical approach. The next section deals with the actual exegesis of I Timothy 2, and the last section provides conclusions.
Key Principles of Accurate and Effective Exegesis
1. Grammatical Integrity
This involves the use of original languages. We need to know what is really being said.
2. Historical Integrity
An understanding of the historic and cultural events that surround Apostolic letters gives insight into why certain things are being taught and exhorted. Failing to work in this arena results in incorrect or shallow application.
3. Contextual Integrity
Through the verse by verse study we do every week, we have comet o appreciate the importance of staying with the context. It helps avoid ‘eisegesis’, i.e. Philippians 4:13.
4. Distinguish Between Timeless Truth and Temporary Regulation
Timeless truth = love God/Ten Commandments/ Salvation by Grace/
Temporary Regulation = Deuteronomy 23:12-13/ Acts 15:8-11, 19-21
Exegesis of I Timothy 2:9-15
It is obvious that at first glance this passage creates some serious problems, not only as it relates to women in ministry, but also to women in general.
This verse seems to cement forever the role of women in the church as that of silent, behind the scenes support. Is that what Paul meant with these words?
When Paul came to Ephesus with the gospel originally, the Power of God rocked that city. Literally thousands were saved and it even effected the economy (Acts 19:17-29). You can be sure that among those saved were temple priestess prostitutes, priests, and leaders of false religions. Under Paul’s leadership, teaching was solid, and lifestyles were changed. Under Timothy’s leadership false teaching and sloppy living were eroding the work of God in the church.
Side Note #1
Historically, one of the greatest enemies to pure biblical doctrine is a phenomenon called syncretism. This is the blending of Christian doctrines with pagan doctrines so they coexist. We saw this illustrated clearly when we went through I Corinthians. It was also happening in Ephesus. Josephus records that Clement of Alexandria complained in his Memoirs that Christian groups had turned their communion services into drunken orgies. This was clear syncretism. Throughout the Greco-Roman world there were various groups who called themselves Christians that combined worship, teaching, and sexual immorality. This syncretism was part of what Timothy faced.
Side Note #2
Because I Timothy is a personal letter, some of these problems are not directly spelled out in the text. The reason for that is because both Paul and Timothy had common knowledge of the situation at Ephesus. In fact, Paul is most likely responding point by point to the issues Timothy raised to Paul in a previous letter. This again illustrates why history and context are so vital to accurate application.
Timeless Truth of Temporary Regulation
If Paul’s prohibition of women to teach or exercise authority is a timeless truth, there is a problem with other areas of scripture in which women are involved in ministry activity, and with Paul’s experience. Even the Ephesian church had been established in part by the skillful teaching of a Godly woman named Priscilla. She and her husband Aquila taught Apollos when he first came to Ephesus with an inadequate knowledge of the Gospel (Acts 18:18-28). Timothy knew all about Priscilla! Do you think Paul would consider a ban on women teaching a timeless truth that reflected the Divine order of things? I Don’t!
A closer look at the Greek word for authority (authenten) is helpful. This is a rare Greek verb that appears no where else in the New Testament and only on rare occasions to Greek literature. The usage in classical Greek is one of the only resources to shed light on the meaning of this word. The most basic rendering translates: ‘to thrust oneself’. It almost always carries, however, vulgar connotations of a sexual nature. Some evidence indicates that authenten involves a soliciting of sexual liaisons. St. John Chrysostem (400 A.D.) in his commentary on I Timothy, translated authenten as ‘sexual license’. In lengthy description of various tribal practices, the Byzantine Historiographer Michael Glycas uses authenten to describe women ‘who make sexual advances to men and fornicate as much as they please’.
Add the above information to what we know historically and culturally about Ephesus. It’s a center for pagan cults with immoral practices Syncretism was clearly at work and manifesting itself through false teaching. Paul had already warned the women who were not dressing modestly – literally wearing the garb of temple prostitutes (braided hair), but now he prohibited them from teaching or using sexual manipulation to gain influence in the church (as was the common temple practice). Instead, these women are to quietly learn correct doctrine and change their lifestyles.
As we come to verses 13-14 it appears to get stickier because Paul is apparently appealing to creation itself to explain why women can’t teach but must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
Related to the various cults and misguided Christian groups we’ve already discussed was the most powerful movement called Gnosticism. Among the many heresies was teaching that proposed women possessed superior intellectual and spiritual knowledge and in fact had priority in creation. They proposed further, that Eve was born before Adam and had a special knowledge that Adam did not have. These heresies were rampant in the early church era, but especially in places like cult centered Ephesus. An understanding and awareness of the active heresies help us unlock the meanings of these verses.
Women, you will not be allowed to sexually manipulate men to gain power and authority in church, the way you used to do it in the pagan temple. In fact, I do not allow you to teach at all. Instead, you need to quietly sit and receive instruction with entire submission! And while we’re on this thing, why don’t you wear decent clothes? You look like whores! Don’t try to blend pagan teaching with Christian doctrine. Eve wasn’t created first – Adam was! And Eve didn’t have any special knowledge hidden to Adam. In fact, she was the one who was first deceived. If she had so much special insight, why was she deceived at all?
This verse seems to indicate that women are saved or preserved by childbearing. What does this mean? Is it true? Really? How many children would be enough to preserve a woman? What about single women? Infertile women? Infertile husbands? Maybe something else is going on historically or culturally in Ephesus that will help make sense of this.
Applying the Principles
The context of this epistle reveals that it was a personal letter from Paul to his good friend Timothy, who was the Pastor at the church in Ephesus. It is clear that Timothy was struggling in his ministry for a number of reasons. One reason is that he was a bit timid and easily intimidated. The founder of the church was Paul, and the sheer force of his bold and confrontive style had kept the wolves at bay. Those wolves, however, were moving in on Timothy.
The most obvious expression of their presence came in the form of false teaching (Gnosticism), and syncretism of pagan religions with Christianity (1:3-10). In chapter two he begins to deal with the people who were apparently using public meetings to air disputes. From those specific problems he zeros in on some inappropriate behavior among the women.
Apparently some of the women were dressing in a manner that was indiscreet and inappropriate: indeed immodest. Some work on history will help explain this.
Ephesus was the center for a number of pagan cults and religions. The most prolific was the worship of Diana and Artemis. A significant part of worship in their temples included the involvement of temple priestess prostitutes. These women, who numbered in the thousands, were more educated than the common Greek women, more cosmopolitan, and may be compared to a high class call girl.
Marriages in those days were arranged for convenience. The result was that Greek men used their wives for producing their heirs and cooking their meals, but went elsewhere for friendship, companionship, and sex. This was a common and accepted practice; that’s just the way it was. Add to this cultural reality, a religious element. Their pagan religion taught that the highest level of communion with the gods was attained through sexual intercourse. Euphoria was a sign that you had ‘made contact’.
Verse 15 still troubles, but there are legitimate possibilities. Keeping with the context, Paul may be indicating to these women that even if they have borne illegitimate children because of their participating in cultic activities, they will still be preserved if they repent in faith, and continue in love and holiness.
If that explanation is not acceptable, then we must also reject the face value idea that proposes women are somehow saved by bearing children. It simply is not true! Thousands of redeemed women have never had children! Sometimes it’s because they’re single, sometimes it’s a physical problem, sometimes it’s because of their devotion to ministry.
Michelson: “This verse seems to point to women’s role in bringing
into the world a godly posterity.”
I Corinthians 11:12 may also shed some light.
In my opinion, this passage is not a timeless truth that forever prohibits women from positions of authority and teaching. There are however, timeless truths in this text. Don’t let people without understanding teach. They should receive instruction in all submissiveness before they give instruction. Morality and purity in living is also a timeless truth that is called for here! Another timeless truth is that you confront false teaching out loud! Don’t try to coexist!
Helpful Resources for Study
Daughters of the Church; Walter Liefeld / Ruth A. Tucker
No Time for Silence; Janette Hassey
Women at the Crossroads; Karl Tojeson Malcolm
Reformed Journal; Ancient Heresies and a Strange Greek Verb;
Richard & Catherine Kroeger
Reformed Journal: May Women Teach?; Richard & Catherine Kroeger
Women in the Church; Berkeley Michelson
My Personal Conclusions About Dr. Klouda and the SBC
There are two issues surrounding Dr. Klouda. There is the issue of broken integrity when it comes to things said, and actions done, toward Dr. Sheri Klouda by the administration of SWBTS.
But then, to me, there is even a deeper issue that faces us as a convention. We have already placed a prohibition regarding women pastors in the BFM 2000. Are there those who are now desiring that we place in our BFM 2000 a statement that no woman shall teach a man the Bible?
If so, we will be violating our own history, the examples of women teaching men in Scipture itself, and the principles of the New Covenant gospel. It's time we as Southern Baptist stopped the creeping demand for conformity in the acceptance of a very narrow and strict interpretation of texts like I Timothy 2.
It is not too late to do something.
And we owe it to the future women of the Southern Baptist Convention -- not to mention Dr. Sheri Klouda.
In His Grace,