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  • Writer's picturePaige Patterson

The Truth About Men in Church

For most of my life, I have resisted the desire to respond to the misrepresentations, unkindness, and uncharitableness of constant attacks even when sometimes the error of such efforts could have easily been demonstrated. But believing as I do in the right of everyone to have and express opinions, and supposing that most Christians are fully conscious of biblical warnings about “false witness,” I have preferred to cede judgment to God alone, who knows all and judges all without prejudice. These views are supported by a rather vivid perspective regarding my own sinfulness and frequent failures, and an enormous and growing gratitude to God for His mercy on me only underscores my commitment to this practice.

Recently, several twitter entries accused me of holding a position about which only a half-truth was told. I have no interest in lambasting the observers who suggested that I held a view contrary to the explicit words of Scripture, i.e., that the authors of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 intended to reference only “senior pastors” when they addressed women in church leadership, while being perfectly happy with female leadership in other pastoral roles. The most glaring problem with this position is that the text of Scripture speaks to the function of church leaders and not to the office itself (1 Tm 2:11-15).

In a Washington Times interview from June 1, 2000, I answered a question about the then proposed BF&M 2000 statement. In part, I said, “Secondly, there is a biblical prohibition that a woman cannot teach or have authority over men . . . .” I cite that from a 2000 interview because that was my clearly and consistently expressed position on women and ministry from 1956 to 2000 and from 2000 until the present.

While I did not disagree with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 statement that the pastorate is limited to men, I also contend that the statement is a deduction from 1 Timothy 2:12, the actual words of which clearly affirm that a woman may not teach men or exercise authority over men in the church. As more than one person said to the committee in 2000, “Simply state what 1 Timothy 2:12 says and go no further.” The committee did not see the subsequent problems that would arise, although they were warned. The conclusion that the committee unanimously supported is true; but to be sufficient in addressing later problems such as those appearing in this generation, they would have been better served to quote the Scripture passage itself.

Two observations are in order. First, this provision of 1 Timothy 2:12 is not the result of any latent inadequacies in the woman who is in God’s image as the man (Gn 1:27). What is in view is the priority of man in the creation order and the accompanying assignment given to him from God for spiritual leadership, especially the husband in the home (Gn 2:15-17). Masculine forfeiture of spiritual leadership, along with radical feminization, is responsible for much of the dissolution of the witness of the home that is apparent in today’s church.

Second, I have a question to float. In a sea of denominations in which most have chosen to ignore and even pontificate against 1 Timothy 2:12, what is the harm of having one evangelical denomination whose churches maintain a union with Scripture even on the subject of masculine leadership? The advance of “cultural hermeneutics” has certainly taken its toll on most of those designating themselves as Protestants and is not underrepresented among Roman Catholics. Why is it problematic for Baptists to choose to endorse the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture? If Baptists are concerned about the sanctity of the home and believe that the Bible proscriptively and by example insists on masculine spiritual leadership, what segment of society is harmed by this? Why the all-out attack on Baptists?

Unfortunately, the truth is obvious. Baptists, joined by a few other evangelicals, remain as the only gate resisting the advance of the normative disvalues of the culture. This quickly spirals into an issue of religious liberty. Do Baptists have a right to follow the Bible? Do they have the option of structuring their churches, homes, and lives after the declarations of Holy Scripture?

Anabaptists and Baptists of yesteryear paid a heavy price to secure this freedom, and some of us have no intention of jettisoning it now. Attacks from the outside are unfortunate, but attacks from within are reprehensible. Today is the day to return to the doctrines of the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, which have long been the signatures of our Baptist people, often in their own blood across the centuries.


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