Women in positions of spiritual leadership Part 2: Should we separate?

men-and-womenIn our last post on this topic, we established  why a woman who functions in a position of spiritual authority over men in the local church is serious sin, is a denial of male headship, is a hindrance to the gospel and cancels God’s pattern of spiritual leadership. I concluded the article by stating that Christians should not be in fellowship with women holding these positions, but rather we should be calling them to repentance and distancing ourselves from their ministries. This is a difficult position to hold in our current cultural context and an even more difficult action to carry out.

After viewing the biblical data, most Christians have to agree that the issue is sin (i.e. women in pastorates are in open, unrepentant sin), but they do not go so far as to believe it is an issue worth breaking fellowship over. Breaking fellowship is uncomfortable and it is often called “taking things too far.”

With that in mind, today’s article is dedicated to all my dear brothers and sisters who understand the biblical data, but are unwilling to take the biblically demanded action. My hope is that through sound biblical argument, I can persuade you to see that Christian separation is anything but “taking it too far.” It is instead not taking it far enough!

Never does God allow us to remain in fellowship—or to support those who remain in open, unrepentant sin (Mat 18:15ff; 1Co 5:11-13; 2Jo 1:9-11). Yet for those who are not convinced that this constitutes such a situation, I will attempt to argue from another approach. An approach used by the greatest apologist, evangelist and theologian the church has ever known (besides Jesus): the Apostle Paul. This approach is known as the “ad hominem” method of argumentation and it works like this: take the premise stated by the opponent to be true, then, through a series of logical and valid conclusions, show how faulty (and sometimes absurd) the premise is. Paul used this approach in 1 Corinthians 15 when arguing against those in Corinth who had become convinced that there was no resurrection. He took their premise (no resurrection) and showed how absurd it was, based on the logical conclusions that would have to be drawn if such a thing were true (see 1Co 15:12-19).

Having said that, here is the premise and the arguments I hope will persuade all to see its absurdity and error. Premise:

Even though women pastors are in open and unrepentant sin, it is not grounds for breaking fellowship or refusing support.

If this premise is true, here are the logical conclusions:

You are now having fellowship with an individual who would be disciplined out of your own church.

Matthew 18:15-20 requires that the church disciplinary process be initiated on anyone living in open, unrepentant sin. Let us assume, hypothetically, that there is a woman in your church who is moonlighting as a pastor in another church. If we are following what Jesus prescribes in Matthew 18, we would require her to repent and resign from that position, viewing her activities as God sees them. If she refused to repent, we would be forced to put her out of the church, thereby instructing all members to break their fellowship with her until she repents. Imagine further, that after having been dis-fellowshipped, the woman begins to function in a full-time capacity at the church where she was moonlighting. Then, by an act of providence, your church is asked to support her church in serving bread to the poor or some other coordinated effort.

Do you see the problem? Or more accurately, do you see the contradiction? If I say I would fellowship with her (and her church), then I am implying either that it is okay to fellowship with those disciplined out of my church or I am saying that it was a mistake to discipline her in the first place! Both cannot be true at the same time. The point is that you can’t have it one way in your own church (i.e we would break fellowship with someone in our own church if they did that and were unrepentant), but not break fellowship when the sin occurs outside of your own church setting.

You are now having fellowship with an individual who you have classified as a false teacher.

Now at this point, I can hear some saying, “Wait a minute! When did we ever say that women pastors are false teachers?” And my reply would be “the moment you agreed that they were in sin.” Allow me to explain. According to the Scripture, what distinguishes a teacher in error (something all teachers are to some degree or another), from a false teacher is NOT that what they teach (or practice) is erroneous, but that through such error, they cause others to live ungodly lives which deny obedience to Christ.

Consider the two main texts on false teachers in the New Testament: 2Peter 2:1-2 and Jude 1:4. Both of these identify false teachers in the same way—as those who cause others to live ungodly lives which deny obedience to Christ.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned. – 2 Peter 2:1,2

Notice what identifies them as false teachers: teaching that “denies the Master who bought them” and causes “the way of the truth to be maligned”. In other words, what they are teaching people by their lives and words is something that causes others to think that obedience to Christ as Master is not important and thereby maligning God’s Word. Christians are to be seen as examples of righteousness and obedience to God, yet those who claim to be Christians, yet walk in disobedience are no different than anybody else—their lives are filled with just as much sin before God as the rest of the world.

Is this not what a woman in the pastorate is promoting since she chooses to openly disobey God by operating in that role? She is clearly teaching that obeying God is not all that important to being a Christian. By functioning as a pastor, she is telling others that Christ as Master is not essential to Christianity.

For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. – Jude 1:4

Jude’s words are almost identical to those of Peter. False teachers are identified as “ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness (ungodliness) and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Again, we see the fruit of all those functioning as false teachers (this is what distinguishes them from merely being teachers in error): they teach others that being disobedient (i.e. ungodly) is okay with God. They teach that a person can claim to be a Christian even while denying the lordship of Christ on certain issues (in this case-women in pastoral ministry).

So this is the identity of women pastors, they are teachers teaching people that complete obedience to what God says is not all that important or possibly even necessary. A woman’s continuance in the role of pastor, elder or teacher of men, communicates exactly what she thinks of the commands of God. Though she claims to know God, she denies Him by her deeds. (Titus 1:16) Eventually, she will cause others to do the same and the price for such actions, according to Jesus, is nothing less than a heavy millstone around the neck. (Matthew 18:6)

These are the logical and valid conclusions that one would have to draw from the given premise above and they demonstrate the premise to be false. Clearly, women who function in pastoral or teaching positions in the church over men are in open and unrepentant sin and therefore grounds for breaking fellowship or refusing support.

In fact, the presence of women as elders (or teachers over men in the church) undermines our ability to function biblically as Christians and as local churches. We are left with no rule to apply, both to those inside our own church or to those outside our church who profess to be Christians (1 Corinthians 5:11-12). In short, we are set adrift on a sea of double standards and biblical contradictions.

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