Wayne Grudem – answering part 6 of his “Open letter to Egalitarians”

Wayne Grudem – answering part 6 of his “Open letter to Egalitarians”

Wayne Grudem on Women in Ministry

This is the part 6 of answering Wayne Grudem’s “Open letter to Egalitarians” and his “Six Questions That Have Never Been Satisfactorily Answered”.  Today I am posting his sixth question, Suzanne McCarthy’s answer and my own questions below that.

Question #6 from Wayne Grudem:

6. Women teaching false doctrine at Ephesus: In 1 Timothy 2:12, where Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,’’ many of you say the reason for Paul’s prohibition is that women were teaching false doctrine in the church at Ephesus (the church to which 1 Timothy was written). Our problem in understanding the basis for your claim is that we see no evidence inside or outside the Bible that tells us that any women were teaching false doctrine in the church at Ephesus. More than that, since Paul’s prohibition applies to all women, it seems to us that your position really needs to show that all the women at Ephesus were teaching false doctrine. So we are wondering if there is any text that tells us that all (or any) Christian women were teaching false doctrine in the church at Ephesus.

We recognize that some women were gossiping at Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:13), but that is not the same as teaching false doctrine—we all know people who gossip but who don’t teach false doctrine! And we know that there were pagan religions in Ephesus where non-Christian men and women did a number of things that were not done by Christians—but to say that they did such things after becoming Christians just strikes us a speculation, not evidence.

In fact, we have read evidence in the Bible about people teaching false doctrine at Ephesus, but they are not women, they are men. So, for example, Paul talks about “Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is past already. They are upsetting the faith of some’’ (2 Tim. 2:17–18). He also speaks of “Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme’’ (1 Tim. 1:20), but these are men, not women. Similarly, Paul warns the Ephesian elders, “from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them’’ (Acts 20:30), but here he says these false teachers will be men (Greek andr?s), not that they will be women.

So our question is this: Will you please show us one reference in all of ancient literature, whether inside or outside the Bible, that states that all the Christian women at Ephesus (or even that any Christian women at Ephesus) were teaching false doctrine?
If you can show us one example, we would be happy to consider your interpretation further. But if you cannot, then we suggest that you have no factual basis for your interpretation of this key verse, and we respectfully ask that you stop writing and speaking as if you did, and that you also reconsider your understanding of these verses.
We know that there are many other questions of interpretation on which we may differ, and we realize that these matters do not solve all of those questions. But we thought that these matters might be the simplest to resolve, since they just involve questions of factual evidence.

Are there any real facts to support your claims?

Suzanne McCarthy’s answer:

Dr. Grudem writes,

6. Women teaching false doctrine at Ephesus: In 1 Timothy 2:12, where Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,’’ many of you say the reason for Paul’s prohibition is that women were teaching false doctrine in the church at Ephesus (the church to which 1 Timothy was written).

Will you please show us one reference in all of ancient literature, whether inside or outside the Bible, that states that all the Christian women at Ephesus (or even that any Christian women at Ephesus) were teaching false doctrine?

This is an argument from silence. What we do know is that there was a goddess Artemis worshiped at Ephesus. She was the patron goddess of women in childbirth and there were priestesses in her service. This was clearly a very contentious issue and caused a considerable commotion in Acts 19:34. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” It is therefore possible that Christian women at Ephesus were still faithful to Artemis in some way. While any answer to these three questions of Dr. Grudem’s can only be speculation, I hope that I have demonstrated that the balance of the evidence does not support the complementarian view to the exclusion of the egalitarian view.

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Comments and questions from Cheryl:

In 1 Timothy 1 Paul has told Timothy to stop the false teachers from teaching error.  Then in chapter 2 Paul against stops “a woman” from teaching and he links the prohibition to deception.  Paul ends the prohibition with verse 15 where he gives a confident assurance of salvation “if” “she” and “they” continue in the faith.  Because of the issue of deception and the question of the salvation of those who have been stopped from teaching, we can be confident that Paul is not demanding the stopping of true doctrine.

I would also like to pose my own question to Wayne Grudem to ask him where in the scriptures does Paul ever stop true Christian teaching by anyone?  If the problem was only with the person who she was teaching and not the doctrine that she was teaching, then Paul would have just steered her towards the women.  The fact is that deception and false teachers are the issue in the bok of Timothy and Paul does not say that Timothy is left behind in Ephesus to stop the false teachers AND the women.  It is only the false teachers who were stopped.  Any other reasoning is illogical and unbiblical.

Links to the previous posts of part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5

3 thoughts on “Wayne Grudem – answering part 6 of his “Open letter to Egalitarians”

  1. It seems there is another aspect of the Pauline epistles, which Wayne Grudem does not even consider in issuing his challenge. And that is Paul’s own teaching on elders and deacons, in both 1 Timothy and Titus, that also throws some light on this issue. While some, such as myself, having done comparative of Paul’s teaching on the functions of church leaders in 1 Thess 5:12; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-11; 4:12-5:2; and Tit. 1:5-2:5, and concluded that “elders” designated the leader’s maturity and authority, while “overseer” and “ministers” designated their primary functions in the congregation, others see a twofold distinction between elder/overseers and deacons/ministers (Cf. Gordon Fee,”Laos and Leadership under the New Covenant,” LISTENING TO THE SPIRIT IN THE TEXT, pp. 121-145). Now, with the help of Kenneth Bailey’s paper, “Women in the New Testament: A Middle Eastern Cultural View,” I want to briefly consider what Paul says about women deacons and women elders, and how it might be related to the women teaching heresy in Ephesus. So let’s begin with women deacons in 1 Timothy. Here’s what Bailey says about it:

    A second text relevant to women deacons is 1 Tim. 3:8-11. Here the qualifications for deacons and for ‘the women’ appear. The two lists exhibit striking parallels which can be seen as follows:
    1 Timothy 3:8-11
    Deacons likewise must be: The women likewise must be:
    1. Serious (semnous) 1. Serious (semnous)
    2. Not-doubled tongued 2. Not slanderers (diabolous)
    (dilogous)
    3. Not addicted to much wine 3. Temperate
    4. Not greedy for gain 4. —
    5. They must hold fast to the 5. Faithful in all things (NRSV)
    mystery of the faith (ekhontas to (pistas en passin) Better:
    musterion tes pisteos) Believing in all things with a
    clear conscience
    These two lists are obviously intended to be parallel. The critical item for our subject is number five. The deacons must hold on to the faith. As seen above, the parallel item for the qualifications of the women is ‘pistas en passin.’ The other six occurences of this word in 1 Timothy are translated as referring to the act of believing in the faith. Here alone it is consistently translated ‘faithful in all things,’ referring to a character trait. Does not the parallel nature of the two lists make clear that ‘believing in all things’ is what is intended? These women can best be seen as engaged in activities related to the faith in the same way as the men. Deacons in Acts 6 appear in Acts 7 and 8 as preachers of the word (cf. Stephen and Philip). Regarding ‘the women’ here in 1 Timothy, John Chrysostom wrote: ‘Some have thought that this is said of women generally, but it is not so, for why should [Paul] introduce anything about women to interfere with his subject. He is speaking to those who hold the rank of Deaconesses.’ (“Women in the New Testament,” p. 3)
    Some Obeservations and Comments:

    Now, if male and female deacons, as part of their ministry to the poor and needy, were required to both know, firmly believe, and faithfully teach the Gospel, we know from other Pauline letters that Paul encouraged such ministry. But if there were any Ephesian women who were ministers in training who, having been influenced by the false teachers Paul actually named, and were mixing this heresy with the fundamental truths of the Gospel, can anyone doubt Paul would have called a halt to this? And then afterward require they be properly trained in Christian doctrine, before they be allowed to minister again? Yet Grudem’s prejudice against women and their full participation in the various aspects of the diaconate, including that of teaching and counseling the poor they minister to, blinds him to the fact that this passage is part of the total context in which 1 Timothy 2:12 is to be understood and applied.

  2. I am glad you enjoyed reading my little study on male and female deacons, and that my observations and comments on the various aspects of their ministry were clear and understandable. I wish I could have done a little comparative study of 1 Timothy 4:1-5:2 and Titus 1:5-2:5, using what Kenneth Bailey calls “rhetorical criticism” to show similar “inverted parallelisms” or chiasms, in which Paul gives his directives regarding elders. First, he begins with some general statements regarding the qualifications and duties of the elders. Then he digresses, if that is the right word, into a pointed reminder to Timothy why these rules on choosing and promoting qualified elders must be strictly enforced to maintain the doctrinal soundness and spiritual vitality of the congregation. And lastly, he focuses again on the specific qualifications and duties, first of male elders, and then of female elders. For in these passages, many NT scholars have argued that presbytero and presbyteras are, as determined by the context and the chiasms involved, clear references to church leaders, “male elders” and “female elders.” And since there are several studies on this out already, I don’t think I’m saying something totally new to most readers of this blog.

    But this being the case, the coffin for burying Wayne Grudem’s view of 1 Timothy 2:2 is, in my opinion, nailed tight. This is what I mean: If in these passages on deacons and elders include, as a necessary part of their ministry, the requirement that those engaged in this ministry must know, affirm and teach the essential beliefs and practices of the Christian faith to those under their care; and if 1 Timothy 2:11-15 does not apply to a temporary and abnormal situation at Ephesus, but is, as Grudem and other complementarians insist, a timeless, transcultural teaching–then we must conclude that Paul is either a very poor logician, is for some reason trying to deceive and confuse his readers, or that he is just plain insane. For to say, on the one hand that under no circumstances can women teach or exercise leadership in one passage, then say in another that as deacons and elders they must be trained and able to teach those under their care–this is a clear violation of the law of non-contradiction. And anyone who violates this law of logic usually does so for one of three reasons: They are irrational thinkers and don’t understand the canons of logic; they are clever and deceitful sophists who are playing tricks on their audience; or they are crazy and need to be locked up in an insane asylumn. But if you insist on the complementarian view of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, your choices regarding Paul and his ability as a rational thinker are limited.

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