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1 Timothy 2, authority and the magical pulpit

1 Timothy 2, authority and the magical pulpit

Many people feel that the pulpit is a place for authoritative proclamation.  However many people also believe that the pulpit gives a man that authority and allowing someone into the “pulpit” who isn’t allowed to exercise authority over the sheep, an authority that the pulpit gives them, is seen as a great sin.

There are several problems with this view.  The first problem is an obvious one, in that there is no such thing as a pulpit in the Scriptures.  Christianity Today says this about the pulpit:

Pulpits, which are associated with traditional churches today, haven’t always been included in churches. In the earliest days of the church, Christians met in homes. In the Middle Ages, pulpits were installed in churches, but sermons rarely were preached out of them…The pulpit became more prominent during the Protestant Reformation, when the preaching of God’s Word became the primary ingredient of worship. The pulpit became more than a place to stand or a structure on which to place notes and a Bible. It became a symbol of the authority of the Bible, the church, and the preacher.

So the pulpit as a symbol of authority is a modern invention not found in the Bible at all.  Many years into the church age what originally was just a piece of furniture convenient to hold one’s notes, has become the symbol of the authority of the speaker.  Somewhere along the way, it appears that the authority of the Word of God which held preeminence during the Protestant Reformation, has been transferred to the messenger.  In our day the word “pulpit” is synonymous for church authority:

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Three spheres of subordination shrinks to two

Three spheres of subordination shrinks to two

In my last post I pointed to USA Today’s editorial that challenged complementarians who are willing to accept a woman as the Vice President of the country, that they should admit that they are full fledged egalitarians in the realm of society, the workplace and public life.

Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, an organization that believes the bible forbids women from voting, has taken CBMW (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) to task saying that Dr. Gushee is right in his USA Today challenge that people like CBMW have experienced an historic change in their theological position.  He writes:

Dr. Gushee’s point was essentially this: Christians must formally acknowledge that a historic change has occurred in their theological commitments and policy objectives, or reasonable observers must conclude that that their position lacks intellectual integrity.

While I do not agree with Doug Phillips at all regarding his very legalistic interpretation of women’s “roles”, he is right in pointing out that if one interprets the distinctions between male and female as rooted in the creation order itself, then it is inconsistent to not apply that principle to all three realms – marriage (home), church and society – instead of just in marriage and the church.  If we are going to remove the realm of society and civil government, then we need to rethink our interpretation of Paul.

CBMW states that they are being consistent and that:

God’s design for male headship in the home and the church does not require the exclusion of women from leadership in public life, where spiritual headship is not involved. Such extrapolation carries the biblical teaching about the role of women beyond the Bible’s own application.

The apparent inconsistency according to CBMW only comes when one overlooks the priority of the church:

Complementarians only seem to be inconsistent if one overlooks the priority of the church and misses the distinction between the church and and civil government.  This confusion is resolved when one understands that complementarians simultaneously hold a high view of Scripture, a high view of women, and a high view of the church.

I think it is time that we test CBMW’s claim to consistency and see what they have taught in the past regarding the role of men and women in Society.

In 1987 CBMW formed as a concerned group of individuals and in that year they created the Danver’s Statement which is a list of CBMW’s core beliefs.

Point 1 under Rationale, CBMW lists a concern:

The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;

Note that the concern is not just about the home and the church but about “our culture”.  Did CBMW believe in 1987 that the difference between masculinity and femininity would necessitate different roles in society?  Their Danver Statement affirmations make it clear that they believe the “created order” that was ordained by God and it goes past an application to Christians because it is to be found within every human heart:

Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).

We find in CBMW’s 1991 book “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” that there is a “breaking point” of femininity that makes some “roles” for women inappropriate, unproductive and unhealthy:

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