Recently there have been several articles about Jen Hatmaker’s new support for same-sex marriage, but there was one article in particular that caught my eye. Timothy Hammons, an ordained teaching elder in the PCA (currently without call), wrote a piece, using Hatmaker as an example, on why no women should be teaching the Bible:
Here is the bigger problem: women like Hatmaker, Sarah Young, Ann Voskamp, and Beth Moore have have no business teaching the Bible. I include Sarah Young, who wrote Jesus Calling, and Ann Voskamp, who wrote One Thousand Gifts, in this category of heretical women of the faith as well. I wrote about the error of those two here. These women are having a huge impact with the women of the church, yet they are not trained theologically, they are certainly not called by God, and they answer to no one except themselves, doing what is right in their own eyes, when it comes to leading the women of the church. They are not in submission to the elders of the church, and in their success, have silenced many who might object.
Many would agree with him regarding these particular women who are noted for teaching false doctrine. However, Timothy expands his prohibition to include all women:
What I mean by this is that if the men of the church, especially elders, were serious about our calling as elders and husbands, we would address these issues and provide good solid teaching for our wives. Instead we leave it up to the women to teach the women. No, I don’t believe that the passage in Titus 2:3-5 is instructing the older women to teach the younger women the word of God. … We see no mention of older women teaching the younger women the word of God. …
The role of women in the church is quite clear to those who will actually look at what Scripture says. There is no call for women to be leading large masses of women in Bible studies, or at conferences, or any other such notion. According to the passage in Titus, and the way God created women, they are to be at home serving their husbands.
Let me briefly summarize the rest of his article. After that, I’ll go through point by point and respond.
- Jen Hatmaker is a false teacher.
- No woman should teach, not even other women
- Women should learn from men, particularly elders and husbands
- Women should be at home serving their husbands
- Women are delicate, frail, and prone to deception
- Having a husband read the Bible daily to his wife should be sufficient biblical instruction for women
First, I absolutely agree that Jen Hatmaker and the other women listed above are false teachers. No question about it. Believers should avoid their teaching. Pastors and elders should address their errors and warn their congregations. There is not nearly enough concern over what is taught to women. Aimee Byrd has addressed this in several posts, including this one on Hatmaker and Lifeway.
Interestingly, Timothy’s arguments against Hatmaker, et al, that “they are not trained theologically, they are certainly not called by God, and they answer to no one except themselves, doing what is right in their own eyes” fit many male false teachers too. A notable example is Doug Wilson. who Timothy shows respect for in other posts. So, if the argument was simply that we should avoid false teachers, I would be in complete agreement.
But that’s not where Timothy stops. Timothy believes that women should not teach at all. Now, to be clear, I believe that the ordained offices of the church (pastor, elder, etc) should be restricted to qualified men. I also believe that husbands are called to be spiritual leaders of their homes and that wives are called to submit to their own husbands. But that is not the point that Timothy is making. He says that women should not teach, not even other women.
Timothy does not address whether or not women should be allowed to teach children. From a comment he answers on his blog, it’s not clear. He seems to suggest that the biblical Timothy, who learned from his mother and grandmother, is not a general guideline about women teaching children, but an exception which is allowed because Timothy didn’t have a godly father.
Timothy says that Titus 2 does not mention women teaching other women the Bible. He believes that the teaching mentioned in Titus 2 is limited to loving husbands and children. This is not a common interpretation of the passage. Both John Calvin and Matthew Henry, who lived well before the modern complementarian/egalitarian debates, define the teaching in Titus 2 in a much broader sense. But even if we conceded that Titus 2 was particularly addressing home and family relationships, is this the only passage of Scripture to consider?
Hannah Anderson, in her book Made for More, talks about limiting women to the “pink” passages of the Bible:
Too often as women, we have restricted ourselves to the “pink” parts of the Bible. … And we forget that these “pink passages” were never intended to be sufficient by themselves. (105)
All of the passages addressed to believers are meant for both men AND women. Specific passages to husbands, fathers, pastors, etc. may not apply particularly to women, but the majority of the biblical guidelines for living as believers applies both to men and women. So let’s consider some of them.
The great commission in Matthew 28 is a command for all believers to spread the gospel. Women are not exempt from this:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt 28:19-20 NASB)
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells the believers (brethren) to encourage and admonish each other:
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1Thess 5:14 NASB)
In Colossians, Paul says believers should teach and admonish one another. This would also include women:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16 NASB)
To proclaim the gospel, to make disciples, to teach them all things, to encourage and admonish one another, all of these are what believers, men and women, are called to do. And the Scriptures give us examples of women doing these things.
In Acts, we read of husband and wife, Aquila and Priscilla, taking Apollo aside to teach him correct doctrine:
and he [Apollo] began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:26 NASB)
Also in Acts, we read of Phillip’s daughters who were prophetesses:
On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. (Acts 21:9 NASB)
In Luke, we’re told of Anna, the prophetess who recognized Jesus as the Savior. She “continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Isn’t she an example of how we are to proclaim the good news and share it with others?
And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 NASB)
Next, Timothy writes that women should only learn from men, specifically elders and husbands. He uses 1 Cor. 14: 35 to support his argument. “If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church” (NASB). However, this passage is more about order and decency in public worship than it is about women learning only from their husbands. If Timothy’s point was that women shouldn’t be pastors or elders preaching in church, this passage would be a reasonable one to use. To make this passage into a prescription for women to learn only from men is a stretch.
What about women without husbands or women whose husbands are not believers? How are they to learn? Timothy answers this question posed by a reader on his blog. He says that deacons and elders should take single women and widows into their families so they can be taught by men.
As Christians from the Reformed tradition, we should be very resistant to any attempts to put mediators between believers and Christ. All believers, even women, have direct access to God through Christ and need no other mediator. We are a priesthood of believers, both men and women. We are all called to take person responsibility for our faith and for the exercise of it. We are all called to read the Scriptures and to pray on our own. Yes, women should discuss Scriptures with their husbands, but that doesn’t mean they should ONLY discuss it with their husbands. In a community of believers, where the passages on encouraging and admonishing fellow believers are followed, women are going to discuss their faith with other women. And that’s a good thing.
Yes, women should discuss Scriptures with their husbands, but that doesn’t mean they should ONLY discuss it with their husbands. In a community of believers, where the passages on encouraging and admonishing fellow believers are followed, women are going to discuss their faith with other women. And that’s a good thing.
In our society, with the use of social media and interactions beyond our local church families, it may well be that women will have these discussions through blogs, books, and even conferences.
Timothy also writes that the role of women in the church is “to be at home serving their husbands.” This is a seriously limited view of women. Setting aside the obvious problem of applying that role to single women and widows, Timothy’s prescription for women in the church does not fit with the examples of biblical women we’re given in Scripture. Lydia, Dorcas, Priscilla, Anna, Huldah, and Deborah are described as doing much more than serving their husbands at home. The Proverbs 31 woman is busy both inside and out of her home.
Now, I’m not saying that wives should NOT serve their husbands at home. Taking care of our families is an important part of who we are as wives and mothers. We should honor that. But just as men are more than their careers, women are more than their familial responsibilities. We are believers and fellow heirs. We may well be called to serve God in additional ways. Taking care of our families can include discipling others as part of the family of God.
Timothy goes on to appeal to the frail and delicate nature of women as the reason why men should step in and teach their wives. He quotes from 1 Peter 3:
You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NASB)
It’s certainly true that women are often physically weaker than men, in general. Our bodies are often smaller and due to the nature of childbearing, vulnerable. Men are told to treat women with honor as fellow heirs. It’s a reminder that men aren’t to use their greater strength and power to harm or mistreat women. But that’s not the kind of weakness Timothy is talking about.
Timothy writes that women are more prone to deception than men. Quoting from 1 Timothy:
And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1Tim 2:14 NASB)
Yes, Eve was deceived. And Paul uses both that and the creation order to explain his prohibition on women teaching with authority over men. But Paul does not say that women, in general, are more prone to deception. The passage also doesn’t say that therefore women should not teach other women. That is Timothy’s interpretation of the passage.
There are weak women who are easily deceived. Paul talks about them in 2 Timothy 3:6. But notice that Paul describes them as “weak” women. If all women were more prone to deception, there would be no need for the modifier. Given the many passages warning believers, both men and women, to be careful of being deceived, it seems clear that deception is something we all need to guard against.
Lastly, Timothy believes that women don’t need much in the way of biblical instruction:
As for the women in the church, you need to quit looking for star-studded satisfaction in your biblical instruction. If your husband reads the Bible to you daily, that is enough. The word of God is sufficient for you in that category.
Yes, the Word of God is sufficient for all believers. But like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, at times we all will need someone to guide us through the Word. We should look to our pastors and elders to teach us in the local church setting. No celebrity, male or female, should take the place of our local church, the preaching of the Word, or the private reading of the Word. But would we tell men that reading the Bible every day is sufficient biblical instruction for them?
Many men and women have a desire to think about and discuss theology. That’s a good thing, and we should encourage it. As I mentioned before in our modern society, that may include writing articles, books, speaking at and attending conferences. Many believers may write publicly to encourage and admonish others, just as Timothy is doing on his own blog.
To conclude, I think it’s absolutely imperative that we guard against false teachers. For too long, many pastors and elders have turned a blind eye especially to what is being taught to the women in the church. This needs to change. It’s vitally important that men AND women be taught sound doctrine. Pastors should be encouraged to preach sound doctrine. Husbands should be encouraged to study the Word with their wives.
But, we should be careful not to set up extrabiblical hedges. In our defense of qualified men as ordained leaders and husbands as spiritual leaders in the home, we should not restrict women to the “pink passages” in Scripture. Nor should we set up men as mediators between women and God. Christ is sufficient, for men and women.