You won't be surprised that I was none too impressed by Biola Professor Allan Yeh's sociological/cultural musings in defense of egalitarianism at Scriptorium Daily. Apparently David Nilsen of Evangelical Outpost felt the same way, so he wrote this. Yeh responded back here. Don't want to read all that? Fine enough- I skimmed a lot of it myself.
In the process of said skimming, I noticed this exchange, starting with Yeh's original post, then Nilsen's response, then Yeh's counter-response:
- Yeh: I hardly know of anyone at Biola who would have a problem with sitting under the tutelage of a female professor (and professors teach, heaven forbid!). Even Talbot School of Theology, the most strongly Complementarian of the seven schools at Biola, has female professors. And we often have female preachers in Biola’s chapel and nobody seems to mind.
Nilsen: The only thing that this comment proves is that many evangelicals don’t follow their theology consistently. It doesn’t constitute support for egalitarianism. Moreover, it confuses the office of church elder with that of seminary (or college) professor, which is not even a New Testament category. I am a complementarian, yet I have no scruples about female professors because I do not believe that the Bible prohibits women from teaching in such a capacity. According to complementarianism, the Bible’s restriction of female service in the church is actually an extremely limited one, and thus any honest debate must be equally limited.
Yeh: I don’t see how you can be OK with female seminary professors but exclude women from preaching in the church...First of all, as I said in my blog, Biola has both female seminary professors (in Talbot School of Theology) and often has female preachers in chapel, so it’s not like only one but not the other is allowed. Secondly, I see seminary professors as analogous to generals in the army. Generals (professors) train their captains (pastors) who train their troops (laity). So why is it OK for the professors (who are teaching theology) to be female, but not for pastors? Theology, which is taught by seminary professors (who are sometimes female), reaches the minds and hearts of male pastors, and trickles down to laypeople via sermons. These are not categories that are mutually exclusive. Can you say that generals and soldiers in the army can be female, but captains can’t? It doesn’t make sense.
The answer is much simpler than Nilsen's unnecessary vagueness and Yeh's convoluted analogy suggest: it is about authority.
1 Tim. 2 specifically forbids women "teaching and exercising authority" over men. I would suggest three things here: (1) the terms are mutually defining; (2) the thrust of 1 Tim. 2:9-15 as a whole is about authority (with teaching as representative of that authority); (3) "teaching" in the Pastoral Epistles consistently refers to an authoritative kind of teaching unique to church leadership. Put another way, forbidding teaching here does not forbid all teaching, but only that particular authoritative type.
Which is exactly why a woman can teach in a seminary: because a seminary professor simply does not exercise local church authority like a pastor does. Seminarians should be constantly weighing the teaching they are receiving, not submitting to it even when they disagree. Further, professors do not exercise spiritual authority over the lives of their students and cannot discipline them for sin. Church elders, by contrast, deserve a unique measure of submission beacuse they are in some charge of exactly these thigns (Heb. 13:17).
The issue is basically the same with a woman preaching in a chapel setting: she teaches God's Word but otherwise exercises no real authority in that setting, especially if a male is the one in ultimate authority for those chapels (as is the case with Dr. Todd Pickett at Biola). This seems to me to be well within the bounds of Paul's teaching.
Obviously I've not said everything I could about 1 Tim. 2, but I would point you to Kostenberger's remarkably convincing article in Women in the Church on the relationship between "teaching" and "exercising authority" in that passage. In any case, let this be a reminder for both sides on this issue to be more careful: facile charges like Yeh's and vague counter-arguments like Nilsen's simply do not help. We must force ourselves to always return to the teaching of the text.