Should Women Be Pastors?

Should Women Be Pastors?

This morning I saw a post by a friend on Facebook that gave me some alarm. The truth from the Bible is very important to me and it is also important to try and help people who are being deceived by the wrong teaching from those who stand in authority over them. There are two things that I keep upper most in mind when I go through life as a Christian. First is that denominations do not have it all together and complete and utter commitment to their teachings whether right or wrong can and will lead a person straight to hell. This is why James 3:1 should be a scary verse to those who hold positions of teaching in the church. The second is that I must always read my Bible and understand for myself what it says to be true. In other words I will never let someone else dictate to me what they think that the Bible says or doesn’t say. The Bible even gives an example of this in Acts 17:11.

With that said I took some time today to write a small rebuttal to the article that was posted by my Facebook friend. You can read the article in it’s entirety here. I will quote brief sentences from the article by my rebuttal to those specific points and then offer a conclusion in the end.

“The passages that on the surface appear to do so are often twisted by interpretations stemming from biased readings of the text”: It boils down to ones worldview. When we read the Bible we come to it with presupposition about the way things are. We get this way by what we learn in school, from parents, from friends, what we see in the news, and from other authority figures in our lives. That is why it is important to try and put those things aside and read the Bible from the perspective of the author. The author here is not only the human author but also the ultimate Divine author; God. So, in other words we are to try and get to the original meaning of the text and not what we, based upon our presuppositions, want it to mean.

We should do this with the Bible because “we become able to determine what the passage meant in the biblical context—that is, what it meant to the biblical audience.” (Duvall and Hays 2005, 19) Our goal in biblical interpretation “is to grasp the meaning of the text God has intended.” (Duvall and Hays 2005, 21) The reason for this view is that we believe “that the Bible is God’s communication of himself and his will to us. We revere the Bible and treat it as holy because it is the Word of God and because God reveals himself to us through this Word.” (Duvall and Hays 2005, 21)

To get back to the debate, how does God want us to understand our relationship to eachother? Dr. Hammett in his book Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches; A Contemporary Ecclesiology gives us a very good explanation. This is a little long but I think that you will see that it is logical and should not be ignored:

“Another factor, helpfully noted by Stephen Clark in his book, Man and Woman in Christ, is the changing idea of equality and identity involved in the transition from a traditional to a technological society. Clark argues that the organizing principle of traditional society was relational. What determined one’s identity were one’s relationships; that is, whose daughter am I , from what clan or tribe do I come, who are my ancestors? People were valued for things intrinsic to them, for being something as opposed to doing something. In technological society, the organizing principle is functional. What determines identity is what one does, I am a teacher, a doctor, a mechanic. Identity is achieved rather than ascribed. Value depends on what one can do.” (Hammett 2005, 172)

Now Dr. Hammett’s logical conclusion:

“The egalitarian side does not believe that complementarians can really believe in genuine equality if there is a distinction in the roles open to men and women. This is rooted in the functional idea of identity. If a woman is denied the chance to achieve something simply because she is a woman, equality is undermined because it is seen in a functional framework. Equality means equal opportunity to achieve. Those in the complementary camp seem to be operating with a relational understanding of equality. Men and women can be equal and yet have different roles, because value and equality is a matter of being not doing…”(Hammett 2005, 172)

He goes on to say:

“[T]here are reasons why Scripture prohibits women from serving as pastors, but they are not functional reasons. God may gift a woman in teaching and leadership, and yet ask her to serve in a context other than that of an elder, not because of any functional inability, but for relational reasons. God may have a purpose for asking males and females to relate in a certain way. Perhaps those relationships reflect something of the Father and Son (1 Cor 11:3). Perhaps they reflect something of God’s original intention in creating men and women (Gen 2:18; 1 Tim 2:13). But these reasons don’t make much sense to us , because they are not functional reasons. Similarly, we all know many women who seem far more capable of leading their families than their husbands. Yet one of the purposes why God assigns husbands to be the head of the family is to illustrate something of the relationship between Christ and the church (Eph 5:23-24).” (Hammett 2005, 173)

A relative verse here would be Ephesians 5:23, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.” (NASB) Perhaps the reader recognizes that it is not an issue of worth or inequality but of relationship. The person interpreting Scripture would do well to remove their presuppositions when reading the Bible. When we do so we can really get down to what the Bible originally meant to the author, the ultimate author; God. Dr. Hammett writes, “faithfulness to Scripture requires adopting a relational view in the church and within the Christian family. God desires his people in these two areas to show relationships that reflect something of his nature and his relationship with us.” (Hammett 2005 173) We must allow what the Bible says to influence us and our worldview, not the other way around.

“In some cases there are faulty or biased translations.”: Translations are just that, translations. Translating committees translate according to the audience that they are translating for. This is why it is important to pick an English translation that fits your translation expectations. Read the translating philosophies of the translating committee in the front of the Bible before you buy and read it. If it is not in line with what you want out of your Bible reading then do not read it and get one that does agree with you. However, a better approach would be to learn to read the original languages so that you can have a better understanding of the language and you will be able to discern why certain translations differ at certain verses. Such as the verse in Romans 16:1 and why certain translations decide to translate the Greek word διάκονον as “servant” and others translate it as “deacon.”

“We believe that God has progressively revealed in the Scriptures His purpose to call, equip and empower women for full opportunity of ministry in the church.”: We have to keep in mind that the word ministry has a broad meaning and just because a woman may be empowered and equipped for ministry that does not necessarily mean to include pastoral ministry. That would be a false premise.

“Clearly the spiritual and heavenly identity proclaimed in Galatians 3:28 has precedence over the earthly, administrative identity.”: This verse is speaking of our salvation and not our position in the church. It is wrong to use this in the debate about women pastors because it is intellectual dishonesty to just paste this into the debate without any clear relevance.

“In the Beginning. The creation story reveals full equality of man and woman in God’s original plan, as both were made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), and the so-called “cultural mandate,” giving them full authority over the earth and all earthly life-forms, was spoken to man and woman (Gen. 1:28-30).”: Yes, but the woman is clearly created for a different role in how this was to be carried out i.e. she was the one to bear children. Clearly women were created for different roles. Men and women were simply made differently for different roles that involved carrying out the mandates of populating the earth and ruling over it.

“In the Old Testament. God Himself initiated opportunities in the Old Testament period by His call to and use and blessing of women in ministry. God used Miriam as both a prophetess (Ex. 15:20) and a leader (Micah 6:4).”: In the first sentence these ministries do not necessarily lend themselves to mean pastoral leadership in the church. That would be a false premise. It cannot mean this, otherwise the Bible is contradictory. The word ministry is very broad in it’s meaning. In the second sentence the office of prophet and pastor are separate offices and not the same. See Ephesians 4:11, here Paul lists apostles,prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers as separate offices in the church. So just because someone is a prophet or prophetess in the Bible does not in any way equate to women having the biblical authority to be pastors. It does not equate. Furthermore, a prophet was a speokesperson for another, whereas a pastor is a shepherd, one who tends flocks or herds. It is true that they both proclaim a word from God but it is also true that they are separate offices within the church and should be treated as such. Not only that but Miriam ranked with Aaron in importance and not with Moses. Miriam also wanted to lead a rebellion against her brother who was the one chosen to lead the Isrealites (Numbers 12). Remember what happened to her? In verse two Miriam and Aaron say, “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.” Then God said to her and Aaron, “When a prophet of the Lord is among  you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Clearly with God there is a difference between their leadership position and Moses’. And so there are differences between prophets and pastors.

“He used Deborah as a prophetess and as a judge who led Israel; she directed Barak as to how military victory was to be won and even accompanied him into battle (Judg. 4:4ff.).”: In this instance there is a lack of qualified and willing men to step up to the plate. Even the general of the Army wasn’t doing his job (Judges 4:6-9). This is a sad state indeed hence the statement by Deborah indicating that a woman will be honored as the victor. This may be the state of some churches or denominations who accept women as pastors but that does not mean that it is right as Deborah’s comment clearly implies.

“God used the prophetess Huldah (even though Jeremiah and Zephaniah were prophets at the time) to spark a great religious revival during the reign of King Josiah (2 Kings 22:14ff.; 2 Chron. 34:22ff.).”: “Huldah the prophetess is otherwise unknown in the OT. The fact that Zephaniah was not consulted may indicate that his prophetic ministry had ceased by this time. Although Jeremiah had certainly begun prophesying (cf. Jer 1:1), it may be that his early ministry (Jer 1–6) had been completed.” (Gaebelein 1988, 4:284) Again, there may not have been any men to step up to the plate.

“At Pentecost…(the rest of the paragraph)”: All of this shows that women can indeed lead ministries in the church. Women are indeed valued by Jesus. However, it still does nothing to convince the reader that this also boils over into pastoral leadership. If it does then the Bible is contradictory as we shall see is not the case shortly.

“In what was probably the first epistle that he wrote, he declared that in Christ Jesus, “There is neither . . . male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).”: Again, this is specifically dealing with salvation. Read the surrounding verses and one will clearly see that this is the case. It is intellectually dishonest to say otherwise.

“In writing to the Corinthians, he recognized that women prophesied and prayed in public worship under the new order (1 Cor. 11:5).”: Women were allowed to prophecy and pray in the New Testament church. No one I know will argue against this. The argument is against women pastors, which is something entirely different.

“When closing his letter to the Romans, Paul mentions ten women in chapter 16, seven of whom he speaks of with detailed, high commendation, referring to one as a “deacon” (not deaconess) who had been a great help to many including Paul himself, referring to one as “outstanding among the apostles,” referring to one as a “fellow worker,” and referring to those who had worked hard “in the Lord” or for the Roman believers.”: The word “deacon” in this instance (Romans 16:1) is the Greek word διάκονον. This word can be translated as “deacon” or “servant.” Now if we hold to the belief that the Bible does not contradict itself we must conclude that in this context—Romans 16:1—that the word should be translated “servant.” Simply because in 1 Timothy 3 the word is translated as “deacon” and says that the deacon must be the husband of one wife. So, if we translate this word as deacon in Romans 16:1 we make the Bible contradict itself because Phoebe cannot be a husband of one wife. She may be a wife of one husband but that is besides the point. Context means everything here. Not only the immediate context but the context of the whole Bible.

“Since Paul implies that he and Barnabas were not married (1 Cor. 9:5-6) and he specifically calls Phoebe a deacon (Rom. 16:1), it is clear that the references in 1 Timothy and Titus were not intended to exclude women and single men from ministry, but to exclude polygamous men.”: First, If Paul wanted to exclude those who were single, he would have said so. However, in doing so he would have not only disqualified himself and Barnabas but also Jesus. This argument is flat. Second, the Greek word for deacon is also translated as servant which is the best translation in light of 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. Third, even if this passage in 1 Timothy is meant to deal with polygamy the verse still very specically says “husband of one wife” and not “wife of one husband” or what have you.


The Bible does not contradict itself and 1 Timothy 2:12 is very clear on what it teaches about women teaching or having authority over a man in the church. Pastors shepherd their church (Hammett 2005, 163); they are the overseers (Hammett 2005, 164); and they have authority over their flock (Hammett 2005, 164). The assertion of authority cannot be derived by doing exegetical word studies alone so we must look at the larger biblical teaching that says to recognize, submit to, and obey the leaders of the church (Hammett 2005, 165). As Daniel Akin explains, this concept, however, is antithetical to what the world teaches (Hammett 2005, 165). So we see where God says to obey authority the world says to rebel against authority.

If the pastor has authority over the flock and 1 Timothy 2:12 forbids a woman from teaching and having authority over a man (there certainly are men as members of churches) then it is clear that women are not permitted to be pastors or have any role of authority over a man in the church. This does not in any way mean that a woman is not valued or that she is incapable of doing the job. It simply has to do with the created order of God and the relationships that he has set forth in His creation.


Duvall, J Scott, and J Daniel Hays. ©2005. Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.

Gaebelein, Frank E. 1988. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 4, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: with the New International Version of the Holy Bible, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Pub. House.

Hammett, John S. 2005. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.




About Peter van Brussel

Peter is the Director of For His Glory Prison Ministry. Peter holds a BA in Pastoral Studies from Southwestern College, a MA in Theological Studies, and a M.Div. from Liberty University. Peter is married to Niki, and has two children. He has been saved by grace and seeks to share the Gospel with those who have been forgotten.
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