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Introduction to Women Serving God Bible Class Series

Introduction to Women Serving God Sunday Bible Class Series

I. Purpose/Objective of the Four Lesson Series.

A. The primary purpose is to survey the biblical materials in the context of the narrative of God’s story in order to raise awareness of the biblical data. Instead of focusing on a few texts about the role of women in the church, this series will cover creation, Israel, ministry of Jesus and the church.

B. The secondary purpose is to foster mutual understanding between people who read that story differently regarding the relationship of males and females. We need to develop a mutual appreciation of how godly people who are seeking the will of God in Scripture can come to different conclusions regarding this question. The goal is not simply to tolerate each other but appreciate how each came to their conclusions through their own reading of Scripture. The series will hopefully illuminate the differences (but also commonalities) between Egalitarian and Complementarian perspectives (defined below).

II. Contemporary Setting: Three Perspectives on Gender Relations

A. Egalitarianism: the full equality of role relationships and functions within the leadership and ministry of the church. This position denies male headship as a theological value and opens all functions in the church/assembly to women.

B. Complementarianism: asserts the principle of male headship (or, male spiritual leadership) but maintains that many traditional practices are oppressive and deny women the freedom that God permits and encourages. This group is open to more significant and visible participation by women in church life and the assembly though they wish to maintain the principle of male headship in the church and family.

C. Traditionalism: asserts the principle of male headship (or, male spiritual leadership) and interprets this to mean that women are excluded from any voice in the assembly (e.g., women cannot make announcements, verbally request prayers, ask questions, voice a prayer, or testify about an answered prayer in the assembly) or leadership function in the church (e.g., women cannot chair committees on which men sit, teach in any setting where men are present, cannot vote in “men’s business meetings,” dialogue with men about spiritual matters in the context of decision-making, etc.). The difference between Complementarians and Traditionalists is best tracked on a continuum—there are varied applications in both camps. But the major visible distinction between Complementarian and Traditionalism is the audible participation by women in the assembly (Traditionalists generally see no audible role and exclude women from any kind of visible leadership in the assembly, but Complementarians see some audible role even while Complementarians may disagree about the specifics of that audible participation).

III. Contemporary Questions: Three Key Interpretative Perspectives.

A. Should we read the biblical texts as timeless and normative applications to every situation and culture? Every statement in Scripture is absolute and is never relative or dependent upon the circumstances, situations or occasion in which it is written. Thus, every application of Scripture should be reproduced in our situation. Consequently, women may not teach, speak in the assembly, etc. This is the general position of Traditionalism.

B. Should we read the biblical texts as containing the principles which we should apply though those applications may vary from culture to culture? We read Scripture to discern the theological principle. We apply the principle rather than reproducing the application. Thus, the same principle may yield different applications given the circumstances addressed. This is the general position of both Egalitarians and Complementarians though they disagree about some of the principles involved.

C. Should we understand that Scripture even points us beyond its own circumstances through “seed” texts? Consequently, while slavery was accommodated in the biblical text, we understand that the gospel contains the seeds for the abolition of slavery. Might it be that the biblical texts also accommodated themselves to male headship while at the same time containing the seed that would abolish male headship? This is the position of some Egalitarians.


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