Sunday, June 1, 2008

Thoughts on Women in Ministry, Part 3: The Incompatibility of Complementarianism and Cessationism

This post serves as the other side of the coin from part 2 of this series, and comes from an idea I had in a class this semester. As yet I have not talked to a complementarian cessationist about it, so if you fit that bill I am especially interested in your response.

The basic thesis, as the title suggests, is that it is impossible to be a complementarian and at least one form of cessationist. If it is not impossible there is a major problem. I'll explain my thought in numbered, point-by-point form to make it easiest:

1. 1 Cor. 11:4-5 clearly indicates that both men and women prophesied publicly in Corinth, and Paul never says this is a problem. Any form of complementarianism must take this into account, as I have tried to in my last post...

2. 1 Tim. 2:11-14 states that women are not to teach in mixed gender settings. Most complementarians think that this excludes any teaching or preaching from the pulpit for women in church today (I think it only limits a specific kind of preaching, but that is for another post).

3. Cessationists do not think prophecy still legitimately happens in the church today. The authority nature of first-century prophecy has been superseded by the Canon of Scripture, such that there is no longer need for such prophecy.

4. Many (most?) cessationists think that, because the issue with the charismatic gifts is divine authority (which now resides in Scripture alone), the modern equivalent and application to first-century prophecy is pulpit preaching, where the preacher speaks out of the authority of Scripture.

But this presents a major problem. A syllogism might help:

If first-century prophecy is the equivalent of modern pulpit preaching;
and women could prophesy in the first century;
then women can preach in church today, because the two ministries are the same.

That is to say that women cannot be both be denied and allowed a ministry at the same time,Make sense?

What this amounts to is that some position needs to be dropped, the options being (a) cessationism wholesale, (b) complementarianism wholesale, (c) the cessationist equivalence of first-century prophecy with modern preaching, or (d) the complementarian ban on all preaching for women.

It will come as no surprise that I would choose to drop option (a). This is partly because I think cessationism is completely biblically untenable and tends to stem from the spirit of the (modernist/rationalist) age more than good exegesis (I try not to use such strong words unless I really mean them, and in this case I really do mean them). So given the choice between dropping complementarianism wholesale or dropping cessationism wholesale, I pick the latter.

But this leaves the question of why not just renounce the preaching/prophecy comparison. But that is too simple of approach which raises a lot of questions about the nature of divine authority in the church. The preaching/prophecy comparison is based on the idea that prophecy served as divine guidance that is now surpassed by the completion of the canon. But if a woman could once serve with that high of a level of authority, why could she not at the same time teach or have authority? It makes the reasons for the guidelines of the authority order of the earliest churches nearly incoherent.

I suppose you could just drop your complementarianism wholesale too, but I would suggest otherwise. Why? That's for a different post.


Anonymous said...

Re: equating prophecy with preaching. It seems to me that the issue of authority is the reason one cannot equate the prophecy with preaching. 1 Cor 14:29-33 indicates that prophecy in the church carries no inherent authority because the members of the church are instructed to pass judgement on each prophecy as to whether it is from God. (see also 1 Thess 5:19-21) This is why there is no contradiction between women prophesying and Paul's instructions in 1 Tim. 2. The issue is authority - not speaking.

Jeff and Jenny's dad

Carrie Allen said...

I see where you are going Andrew, but Mr. Bruce makes a good point. I look forward to hearing your response.

I haven't checked up on this blog for awhile, I am glad to see your post on the day I decided too. Hope you are well, see you soon. :)