A Neutered Pulpit

Editors Note: I don’t want to call this a trigger warning but there are a couple of instances of Luther-esque crude derision. So if you, dear reader, of of the sort that is sensitive perhaps this post is not for you.


Lately I have been having to beef up on the arguments for the prohibition of women preaching in the gathered worship on the Lords Day. It was not a topic I was hoping to get back around to but circumstances have conspired requiring me to revisit the subject in my studies. And I have reached some obvious conclusions. First that there is no good Biblical argument in support of women preaching and second, the only logical reason to advocate the pro position is cowardice.

Argument Weak

At the end of the day the pro position argument is one of obfuscation. It is an exercise in muddying waters covered over with words like, nuance, culture, and scholars say… Which reminds me of Lewis pointing out the only reason the assured results of modern scholarship are assured are because the men involved are all dead and can’t show up and blow the gaff. Nuance, culture, scholars all matter, so does context, which I notice is selectively used and only when it benefits the preferred position. There is also an awful lot of patronizingly looking down of noses at rubes like me for trotting out “clobber texts” like 1 Timothy 2:9-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. This is a rhetorical sleight of hand to undermine the authority of the clear passages. What follows is a cherry picking expedition through NT descriptive texts arguing that Paul didn’t really mean what he plainly wrote. There is also a lot of helpful pointing to the Temple of Artemis, Amazonian women, Phillips prophesying daughters, misspelled names in Romans, all presented with the breathless enthusiasm of a green tour guide. Prophesying gets conflated with preaching, co-workers in the faith becomes fellow apostle, and the protestant church is thoroughly thrashed for not being ancient enough. And after you have been dazzled by all of this conversation you are told there is just no way women should not be allowed to preach on a Sunday.

But again all of this is flash and sparkle, it is a guided walk around the elephants in the room directing your attention at everything but the two massive creatures, Tim and Corr, who by the end you have been told do not really matter. It seems to me that the better part of wisdom would be to conceded the point of the clear texts, and once those are firmly enacted, then we can begin to consider how sharp the edges really should be, and maybe nuance them down a bit while we build on the firm foundation. Instead we are starting on sand and hoping this wobbly structure will settle in place and hold up. 

A New One

One of the things that did surprise me was an argument that was new, to me. It runs something like this: “We modern christians put too much emphasis on Sunday when the ancient early church met daily in the Temple to pray and modeled themselves after the jewish synagogue. There were no sermons as we think of them. The earliest church building didn’t have a pulpit but a table. Sermons, male pastors, meeting one day a week, the ordered service are all modern developments with no real basis in Scripture and we need to get back to the ancient ways. Therefore women can preach.”

This line of reasoning clearly comes from those who are feeling rootless and are wanting something more ascetically pleasing than the kind of stripped down Plymouth Brethren sort of thing I prefer. I mean if you want your sermons delivered to you by a man dressed as Liberace’s stunt double why not just put a woman in that dress and feel less awkward about the whole thing. But I understand the point, and it is a great argument if you are going up against someone who hasn’t read their Bible in some time but has been getting a theological stiffy from N.T. Wright. 

There are a couple of ways I came up with to meet this argument. The first is, obviously to go to your Bible and show every point where we get all of those horrid “modern” developments. Now that tack does require some work, but less than you would think. Also consider, when has Bible study ever been bad?! And don’t be cowed by those condescendingly soothing tones from someone who had read a book by “that bishop” as the Brits refer derisively to him. British accents are not as smart as they sound. Secondly, swallow the reductio. “We are protestant, we do these things and we do them for very good reasons. If you want to go ancient go on and swim the Tiber already, we are not Rome deal with it.” Just because someone says they want to do things that are Biblical does not mean they actually are. 

I think that this argument can only be made in good faith by a person with poor ecclesiology, If you don’t know why we do things the way we do them historically and Biblically then it comes as no surprise that you would discount the importance of the gathered church on the appointed day. Most non denominational churches build their services out of pragmatics and when the staff and elders have previously experienced at other churches, but they have no real understanding as to why things are done. And typically the response is some sort of dismissal along the lines of people who focus on ecclesiology are practically legalists.

My last thought is that this particular argument is interesting in that I find it to be the only one that makes me want to argue the point outside of exegeting scripture. If you imagine doctrine as a tree the trunk and bases of the branches are those things that are painfully easy to interpret from the text. Further out on the limbs are the things where a little elbow grease has to be used to show from the text. And the twigs are the things that have an attachment but often break off when given a little resistance. I consider the argument for women preaching to be a twig that is straining under the weight of Wright and his disciples. The thinking is tenuously connected to the trunk but is straining mightily. And yet the “early church” argument makes me edge out onto a limb with my, “yeah we are protestant.” It is an interesting place to be and I don’t particularly enjoy it.


At the top of the article I laid the charge of cowardice, and it should be addressed. The case is simple. The Biblical texts are not in place to take a solid stand, and yet we see so many elder boards bending with this wind like so many willow trees along a riverbank. The reason being that to actually stand firm on what is true would require them to be seen as chauvinist, or legalistic, spiritually or emotionally abusive or doctrinaire, or horror of horrors, puritanical. All of the things that are the opposite of the winsomeness that has been working so well for us lately.

In general our society has gotten used to thinking the shrill cries from the offended are the voice of the majority. When really the opposite is true and to have the fight would actually end the pain once and for all. “The extraction hurt more and more and then the tooth was out.” And by that I mean either the rebellious women will repent or leave in a huff, but consider, they will be gone. The ways of God are not like our ways, that is why we have faith. To fail in obedience is a lack of faith, to add cowardice on top of it is nauseating.

“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” – James 4:4


I find in my review of the position that there is nothing to obstruct a woman from preaching in the congregation on the Lords Day to be an argument that holds water as well as my kitchen colander. And I find myself grieved and frustrated that otherwise smart men are tripping over themselves to push this steaming cart of theological manure. God grant us the day when men will lead our churches caring only for the mind of God and not giving a fig about what the world thinks of them.

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