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Embarrassed by R.C. Sproul, Jr.

R.C. Sproul Jr. may not have intended to sound as sexist as he did here, but he should know enough about our culture to expect to be misunderstood. So, on both accounts, I’m disappointed: 1/ Does he really think that women have no place discussing theology online? And/or 2/ Did he really not believe that he would be misinterpreted? Either way, he dropped the ball, I think.

I wrote about women and theology last year. (Read it and thank God for women interested in theology.) Praise the Lord that some women were discussing deep truths within the hearing of John Bunyan. They were God’s messengers to the author of Pilgrim’s Progress. For the ladies retreat this year, I wrote the following letter for our wonderful ladies.

Ladies Retreat Letter from the Pastor 2005

Dear Ladies,

It is true that in Christ there is neither male nor female, but all are in Christ and Christ is in all. But on this circle of dirt we call earth, God has designed some of His children to be male, others to be female. It requires two genders to display the image of God. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27 ESV). As women, you display the splendor of God’s image when you are fully and unreservedly women. As your pastor, I celebrate your womanhood and glory in it, rejoicing to see the strength and beauty of the Lord displayed through it. However, you are not only women. You are Christian women.

The most important of all commandments from the Creator to humanity, particularly Christians, is that we love God. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment (Matthew 22:37, 38). He says to His image-bearers, “Love Me as I have made you. Love Me, ladies, with all your feminine heart, feminine strength, feminine soul, and feminine mind. Be God-entranced women, glory in your femininity, for the display of My image depends on womanhood.” Therefore, I think that God delights in the wholesome and uplifting camaraderie of gender (such as you will find at this retreat) that fits His women to be more effective servants of God and strengthens them in their pilgrimage to heaven.

I would suspect that our Lord is pleased with ladies retreats. His earthly ministry was distinguished by an almost other-worldly (particularly at that time) appreciation of women. His traveling entourage included a cadre of dedicated female disciples, and it was to His female disciples that He first revealed Himself on the holiest day of history, the Resurrection Day. And did you realize that God sees to it that no Christian ladies retreat ever occurs without the presence of at least one man servant? And a happy man at that! Yes, God the Father appoints a man, a pure and delighted man, to serve you. It is the Man Christ Jesus who is the one and only mediator between God and women (1 Timothy 2:5). He is the happiest of men! God has anointed [Jesus] with the oil of gladness above all [His] companions (Hebrews 1:9). And He came, says the Scripture, to serve! If your heart is touched, your burdens relieved, your body refreshed, and your soul rejoiced, it is because of Christ Jesus our Lord who is personally visiting your retreat. Rejoice in Him! Celebrate Him! Serve Him! Delight in Him! He’s delighted in you.

As your pastor, I want you to know that my earnest prayers are lifted to God for your fulfillment and joy as servants of Christ on this planet and in this space of time we call life. Perhaps you do not know – or are not assured of – a heart-to-heart relationship with the Creator of Women. Please ask one of the ladies, or make a point to talk to someone who really does commune with God. He invites you to come to Him. Perhaps you are weary or have sorrows that seem too tender to touch, but nonetheless seem to crush you. My friend, please know that there are ladies at this retreat who you can trust and who will love you, cry with you, and share your burden. I invite you to open up to them. They will never know best how to love you until you let them know the real you. Maybe you’re just tired of the rat race, the routine, or the pressures of daily life. Then, enjoy! So I close with one strong pastoral admonishment for all: Come back even happier than you left!

In Christ, the Beloved One,


25 Responses

  1. Don’t stone me, but if I may be so open minded as to attempt to read Sproul’s statment from his own POV…I think all we’re looking at is a varient application of a commonly accepted principle- Women are not to have a teaching ministry over men; writing is an extension of the teaching ministry; blogging is a form of writing. The transitive principle dictates that for a women to take part in informative theological blogging, directed toward a male or mixed audience, is for a women to take part in teaching ministry over men.
    I’m not saying that I necessarily accept that line of reasoning (though something has always bothered me a bit about women’s attempts at theological works), but to be fair…is it really so far-fetched for Sproul to accept it?
    Your plea (for women to personally have theological depth) is not at odds with Sproul’s plea (for women to refrain from lording such depth over men)…so I’m not sure why you pit one against the other.
    I probably just failed to understand one or both of you, so let me know where I’m wrong.

  2. Scott, there are several problems here. First, Sproul Jr. was even disagreeing with women teaching women theology. It was not the audience he objected to–it was the curriculum. He is effectively saying that women should never teach or even talk about theology. “Talk about,” too extreme a reading? That’s another problem with Sproul Jr.’s thoughts: blogs are often discussions and conversations–informative, yes, but not authoritative teaching. That’s true for men and women. To say no writing and blogging is to go much further than no teaching: it’s saying no conversations. And once you’ve done that, you’ve effectively cut off half of the “priests and kings” in God’s church from serious consideration of God’s truth. Finally, the passages on women teaching and having authority are in the context of the church gathering (1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 14). Priscilla and Aquila both taught the scriptures to Apollos–this is spiritual instruction, even theological instruction for a budding ministerial student, and this is a NT example of instruction by women and men. God’s word is precious, and we are constantly needing to understand it and think about it and talk about it and shape our lives against it–and these conversations, the “marrow of theology,” are better when they include all God’s saints.

  3. Insightful distinction between the authoritative nature of church-based teaching and the conversational nature of web-based discussion. That really is a legitimate difference.
    Also, I hadn’t given due consideration to the case of Aquilla & Priscilla. I’m still not sure how I’d abstract and apply that to our contemporary situation, but however I would, I’m sure it would allow for blogging 🙂
    Finally, upon further consideration of Sproul’s statment, it would seem that you may be correct- he is opposed to women teaching even women theologically (could this be his application of the regulative principle?)…and if this is the case, than I blush with you.

  4. Sproul gave the following statement:

    “A husband who loses his wife to a hook-up with some internet Lothario is probably better off than one who returns from work to find his wife safely at home, but having been seduced into Rome by some charming blogger.”

    I think this point is well taken. The fact is (very easily defended from Scripture) that we all have responsibilities that are more important in God’s eyes than getting involved in theological discussions that often have no real value (whether via the Internet or good old “Hallway Theology”).

    I think one of his points was that if a wife is neglecting her primary responsibilities to participate in theological blog discussions, she is out of place.

    I would add to that, if a husband is neglecting his primary responsibilities to participate in theological blog discussions, he is out of place! 🙂

  5. Joe, yes, other responsibilities are important. But R.C. Sproul Jr. pointedly did not make this statement about men, too: he made it only about women. Let’s start the criticism with men and then say “And that goes for women, too”–women are already getting enough grief from Sproul Jr. without being the focus of more criticism about being interested in theology.

    It’s never bad to remember that it was about a woman–a woman who chose to abandon housework for theology–that Jesus said, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10.42).

  6. Scott, good questions. And Joe points out some of the obvious strengths of Sproul’s statement. However, I still take exception to Sproul’s statement because of what is implied/assumed.

    I would like to really expand on this, but Samuel makes a very important point: the instruction of 1 Timothy about women teaching men is within the context of the local church. I think that this is so obvious that I hardly need to attempt to prove it.

    There is an authoritative element of teaching/preaching within the congregation that is an exclusively male responsibility. But, radical as this may seem, it is not the teaching/preaching that is reserved to the male gender, it is the authority of teaching/preaching within the local church. Even a cursory reading of Acts will show proclamatory and didactic ministry issuing from women. Now, I know that the Acts cannot be taken as normative, but I think that the disposition of and attitude toward women within the primitive church is examplary, not to mention Priscilla’s outstanding influence for the cause of Christ in the life of Apollos. I think the grammar of Romans 16:3 suggests that both Aquila and Priscilla were considered by the great Apostle as fellow workers who risked their lives and to whom all the churches needed to be grateful.

    I suppose the Sproul has good advice – to all of us. I object to the notion that women are out of place in theological discussions.

  7. Pastor Bob,
    Since it is the authority of teaching within the local assembly, and not the teaching itself, that is out of line for women, I’d be interested as to what contemporary avenues or contexts you’d approve of a women teaching men in.
    A seminary Bible or Sys. class? A non-normative service (such as “revival meetings”)? A ministry workshop/seminar?
    And how do you differentiate between what is local-church and para-church? Would 1st/2nd century Christians have differentiated between various forms of “assembling themselves together” based upon which services were listed in the yellow-pages and which weren’t? To keep from barking up that tree, let me clarify that my question is really how they would have determined when it was appropriate for a woman to give an oration and when it wasn’t. Perhaps there are some common factors in the Acts accounts you mentioned that shed light on that question??

  8. Those are hard a good questions, Scott. They merit some thoughtful discussion, but it’ll have to wait a couple days for me because I’m on my way to South Carolina.

  9. Just a comment on the repeated mentions of Aquila and Priscilla: The scriptural data on exactly what they were doing in instructing Apollos is sketchy at best. Bob mentions their commendation in Romans 16 as well. So… what can we conclude about this? If we believe in the unity of Scripture, we must inform ourselves from the clear teaching of Scripture concerning these sketchy references. Paul wrote the ‘rules’ for men and women and worship. He also commended Aquila and Priscilla and viewed them as valuable fellow workers. Presumably, whatever Priscilla did in instructing Apollos or others, was not a violation of the rules Paul was inspired to write, since he commended her.

    It is an egalitarian trick to bring this couple up as an example of women doing what Paul prohibited women to do.

    In order to discern the Scriptural doctrine of what women may or may not do in theology, the answer must come from those passages where the Scripture writers addressed the subject. The sketchy examples of honoured people must be taken by faith that they did not violate the teaching, whatever it was they did.

    That’s all…

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  10. Thanks for each of your thoughtful statements.

    In my understanding, Eph 4:11ff would seem that [assumedly male] pastor/teachers are appointed to effectively equip and mature all saints. It also seems from Titus 2 that the older women are given a specific realm of content to teach younger women, and it seems more of a practical application of theology, not theology itself. It also seems in Eph 5 that husbands are the primary word-appliers to their wives, not other women (and women are told elsewhere if they have a question to ask their husbands at home, not other women).

    I do not see “in the context of the church” as being a location, per se. It seems that the instructions to the church are based upon the order and design of creation (e.g. 1 Tim 2), which would be pervasive, not limited to one place but not another. Interacting or blogging on theological issues is not wrong in and of itself, but when is it outside the realm of someone’s God-assigned responsibility? It appears the the pastors of an assembly are responsible to teach and protect (Acts 20), not random bloggers.

    It seems unusual that there would be no qualifications for female teachers (“apt to teach”?) as there are for men.

    For my pursuit in trying to understand this area, I do not believe it requires a poor view of women to accept differing areas of responsibility. It isn’t in any sense a question of ability or intelligence, but divine assignment from the Beginning. In Genesis 2, God even gave his commands to Adam before Eve was created (was it then Adam’s job to pass them on to Eve?).

    Some broken thoughts. This, to me, is a watershed issue that affects the direction of teaching and ministry in both home and church. I’d appreciate your further discussion and help on this.

  11. Kevin, I am reading a book by Dan Doriani entitled Women and Ministry. It seems to be a pretty good summary of a conservative position so far. (I am about half way through.) Dorinai is a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, so I assume he is Lutheran?? Not sure on that. He is definitely a covenant theologian, although those views don’t seem distinctly obvious in what I have read so far (and of course are not a matter of objection to some).

    In any case, I am beginning to think this book is a good one to recommend to folks who want to get a handle on the scriptural teaching concerning women in ministry. In general I like what he has to say, although I have had a couple of minor disagreements to this point.

    I hope that might be helpful.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  12. Mr. Subra, you say, “I do not see ‘in the context of the church’ as being a location, per se. It seems that the instructions to the church are based upon the order and design of creation (e.g. 1 Tim. 2), which would be pervasive, not limited to one place but not another. Interacting or blogging on theological issues is not wrong in and of itself, but when is it outside the realm of someone’s God-assigned responsibility? It appears the the pastors of an assembly are responsible to teach and protect ( Acts 20), not random bloggers.”

    I think I understand your point. I agree that the Church is a group of people, a living breathing Body with Christ as its Head, and that its existence extends beyond the bricks of a church building or the time slots of a service or assembly. The mandates of Scripture are not applicable only within those bricks and time slots, either, and I agree that pastoral responsibility and authority ought rightly to extend as far as the sphere of his influence reaches (which would indeed extend beyond the building and the assembling together).

    However, there are recognizable spheres of influence to which these biblical passages bear more and less direct significance and application. Granted, we are to honor Scripture’s absolute and sufficient truth — and live in keeping with biblical, God-glorifying principles derived from Scripture — in ALL areas and aspects of our lives. But I think we do all agree that there are spheres. The blogosphere is certainly on no contextual par with the context of a corporate meeting of the church, where God’s Word is preached by an undershepherd whose person and work are so clearly defined in biblical texts. We (in North American conservative cultural-religious circles) don’t have a problem with women teaching their children in their husbands’ or in their pastors’ absence. We don’t have a problem with women counseling their peers or their husbands, especially when they are doing so discreetly and appropriately with a spirit of meekness, love, and submission. We don’t have a problem with women working or operating outside the home in various capacities, in moderation, interacting as representatives of that Church universal, operating as individual God-glorifiers with their distinct God-given talents and affinities. (I spoke to R.C. Sproul, Jr. on the phone the other day, by the way. He was asking me a question about a magazine for which I work, one for which he’s written articles. I am currently watching his dad’s “Defending Your Faith” apologetics video series with a group of young people from church — wherein we are being instructed how to share the Christian faith with assurance and integrity in our individual interactions with unbelievers.)

    I consider my blog to be a platform of sorts, one which I consider very seriously and one for which I take complete responsibility, but in no way do I see legitimate comparison of a parishioner’s blog with a pastor’s podium. Not even a pastor’s blog (such as my pastor’s, which you are reading) carries the authoritative clout or the universal relevance that God’s Word carries for us via those means of grace sanctioned in God’s Word. I have never purported my blog as anything beyond what the WWW culture would view it — another voice in the melee. The entire mentality of the blogosphere and the Internet in general is that of individuals making information available — there is no underlying understanding that a person’s blog is on par with an authoritative Word from God, any more than a person’s individual lifestyle testimony is assumed to be interchangeable with the preached Word of God (within the context of a meeting-together of believers for the purpose of worship, for the expounding of God’s Word).

    The information provided by individuals via the Internet — specifically the blogosphere — is considered at large to be more or less reliable, more or less dangerous, more or less usurping or undermining, more or less profitable, more or less inherently sinful depending upon the condition and the philosophy of the blogger. As one of my friends puts it, “Blogs aren’t evil; bloggers are.” To make a sweeping judgment about the utility of blogs/the Internet, or to impose a standard upon individuals that the Bible does not impose, or to presume the motives and spiritual condition and legitimacy of a blogger based solely on her gender, or to assume that the inevitable end of blogging and female involvement on public venues (particularly such an independently endorsed and take-it-or-leave-it venue as a weblog) is destructive rather than constructive, is, to say the least, neither commendable exegesis nor logic.

    My pastor can attest to roles and requests that I (as a single woman with a seminary degree) have agreed or declined to fill within our local body of believers. When he notes a problem with the content on my blog (or in other externally manifested content areas of my life which reflect potential internal problems), he says something to me about it personally (or he may even challenge or rebuke me publicly in comment form, since that is a just/in-kind response option provided by the nature of a blog). Apologies and retractions should be as public as the offense, and when I mess up on my blog, the ramifications are indeed amplified royally. I’m immensely conscious of this reality (and even of perceived reality), but I do — in faithful conscience before God — draw lines between my identity/venue and the manner/content by which I present myself on that venue. Female bloggers are not any more dangerous or fallible or virtuous or impeccable than male bloggers, than pastors, than children — just because they happen to be female and blogging. My relationships with the God-given authorities in my life are, I hope, reflected to a degree in my blogging. I hope that Christian female bloggers have something to contribute to the blogosphere (for both Christian and mainstream audiences), just as Christian female parishioners have something to contribute within their local churches — neither of which must necessarily breach the parameters of Scriptural principles.

    I’m not keen to open here a discussion on women’s susceptibility to succumb to temptations to gossip or to be easily deceived by subtle lies. Perhaps they are more prone, perhaps not, to particular vices — but there are so many exceptions to the stereotypes and proofs to the contrary that it is extremely difficult to derive objective guidelines from Scriptural truth about the legitimacy of a woman communicating publicly, interacting publicly. And there are certainly even fewer, if any, reasons to cast off a woman’s communication/interaction in the Church and in the world as irrelevant and illegitimate based upon her gender rather than upon her character, her testimony, her content, or her tone…nor based upon the past or potential failures of her brothers and sisters in corporate assemblies, in the blogosphere, and/or in other contexts. I believe there are a myriad of biblically-derived guidelines and checks and balances, not to mention human counsel and wisdom, by which a woman might be governed in the expression of her opinions. But I do not think that women ought to be perceived as, or accused of, usurping or undermining God-ordained distinctions without a more substantial, authoritative, objective basis than these observations and conclusions informed primarily by experience, background and opinion.

    (Long. Sorry, Pastor.)

  13. In Mr. Sproul’s defense, he does not exactly say in his blog what this thread seems to be leaning toward. He addresses the dangers, which I doubt anyone would attempt to contest.

    I have grumbled in the past that the internet, for all its strengths, for all its power in diffusing centralized communication, comes with this exact kind of danger. People are teaching who shouldn’t be teaching. And people are learning where they ought not to be learning…. Because we believe that education is conversation, we do not believe that conversation is always benign. Indeed, conversation changes the world. Nice graphics and a gentle word is just the kind of tool the devil would use to lead us astray. In short, we need to mind our ears, and mind our tongues.

    His wording in this and throughout the article may’ve been abrasive or embarrassing to some (not really that much to me), and I disagree with the implicit narrowing of scope for what I believe to be more along the lines of mutual edification and exhortation rather than merely education. If we are talking about ONLY educational blogs, then his remonstrance (and that of this thread in general) is more valid — since education by nature must involve the assumption of a teaching role and therefore would need to be guided by more specific and relevant revealed truth.

    Essentially, however, I acknowledge Mr. Sproul’s complaints as having some validity. They are not sufficient in my mind to merit a dismissal/withdrawal of Christian females from the blogosphere, or of Christian males from female-blog-readership.

  14. I wrote my own response to Dr. Sproul on my blogspot (www.fromtheprairie.com)where I ask many questions about the appropriateness of women teaching men in certain circumstance.

    I believe that there are two real dangers to the comments he made both on his blog and in other teachings.

    The first is that he is calling women to live in another century, to deny the God-given time in history in which they are placed. His hyper-patriarchy only serves to repel women from loving their husbands and children.
    Secondly, his influence is very wide-spread in many reformed circles, which, in my mind, makes his comments even more dangerous.

  15. Joy,

    First let me say that I appreciate your thoughts on this. Though I have put much thought into this myself, I have more to sort out before I’m ready to nail down all of my conclusions.

    I’ll throw some more thoughts your way. You say “We…don’t have a problem with women teaching their children in their husbands’ or in their pastor’s absence. …with women counseling their peers or their husbands…” I would say that the reason we shouldn’t have a problem with these activities is not that they are defined by the North American culture, but because they are divinely commanded responsibilities. Women are instructed to train their children (1 Tim 2:15 seems to imply this very strongly, as well as countless statements in Proverbs), and believers (i.e. both genders) are commanded to teach and admonish one another (Col 3:16, et.al). Working or operating outside the home would probably need to be defined, and it would depend how you understood Titus 2:5. However, I guess my underlying point is that we are to “live in keeping with biblical, God-glorifying principles from Scripture — in ALL aspects of our lives” as you say. However, when do we deviate from what is said? When do we decide it’s OK to do something God has not defined as a clear activity or direction?

    For example, when discussing women and their roles (not their value or intelligence, you understand), passages such as Proverbs 31, 1 Tim 2 & 5, and Titus 2 seem to surface, as they should. These seem to define God’s pattern of activity and behavior for women (albeit it seems to lean heavily on married women). Prov 31 seems to focus on the older married woman and her domestic-centered duties (though some have taken her purchasing of a single field as proof of being in real-estate); 1 Tim 2 seems to focus on what not to be doing (teaching or having authority over men) and what one outcome of their doing should produce (children that continue in the faith). 1 Tim 5 describes the type of woman that could qualify to be taken into the care of the church, and seems to describe the realm of ministry (raising up children, washing saints feet, ministering to the afflicted). Later in that same chapter younger widows are instructed to marry, bear children, and manage the home. In Titus 2, Paul seems to focus more on the character and attitude of the women. In all of these passages, (and please understand I’m not trying to sell anything or prove anything, I’m just trying to discover and follow the truth, whatever that is), the women are never enjoined to pursue careers, lead Bible studies, etc.

    My follow-up question is this: In doing things that we are discussing, is it possible that women could be taking on responsibilities that God has never assigned to them? Again, I am discussing this on the basis of God’s revelation, order, and design. Anyone would and should readily agree that women have wonderful abilities and often surpassing mental capacities (to say that they are equal to men would be inaccurate and unfair to women ;>). By blogging (or whatever), is it possible, not that we aren’t capable of doing it, but maybe we are doing things that God never assigned us to do? Are we fighting wars that we have not been called to fight? Are we (on the opposite side) engaging in activities that keep us from that which God would have us do? One example from experience – I know of wives who spend hours daily e-mailing or chatting with people they’ve whom they’ve never met, with whom they are not immediately responsible for, but do not work hard at home, and their homes are dirty and uncared for. Regardless of the value of their activities online, one is defined in Scripture as clearly a responsibility, the other is not.

    Technology has created questions that have never before existed. In the realm of medicine, for example, Terri Schiavo’s name would never have come to common knowledge 30 years ago. She would have died before she ever stablized after her initial injuries. The internet has expanded long-range and anonymous ministry possibilities beyond imagination, as well as unheard of potential for some to influence others whom they would have otherwise never had contact. Blogging, newer yet, brings with it new possibilities, and new issues. My thought is this – if you, as a woman, had no means to do this (and I’m discussing, not condemning) in this way, would it be appropriate for you to go around verbally proclaiming your thoughts to all who would listen? Is that God’s plan for you as a woman, and if so, where is that explained?

    I’m ending this now for time. I very much appreciate your deep thinking, your attitude and desire to please the Lord, and your yieldedness to your spiritual authority. I also want to say that I appreciate your willingness to enter into discussion on this. Your thoughts have benefited me. You also have amazing web talents with which you appear to use for the Lord. Thank you. I look forward to your continued comments.

    — Kevin Subra

  16. It should be noted that this is RC Jr. not the founder of Ligonier and speaker at the Shepherds Conference. This is his son who operates the Highlands Study Center. (I talked to some one today who thought it was the dad).

  17. I’m back!

    It should also be noted that Joni E. Tada was scheduled to speak at one or two of the general sessions for the Ligonier Conference 2005, but she was unable to because of pneumonia. Either R.C. Sproul Jr. is mildly inconsistent, or father and son don’t see eye to eye on this.

  18. Mr. Subra, I need to clarify that my entire post was not directed entirely at you. I am apparently prone to start off specifically and then broadening the scope without adequate notification! So please consider my comments as directed toward the thread in general, not singling you out, per se.

    Real quick other clarification — Pastor Johnson, I think you’re thinking of Concordia Seminary (csl.edu), which is a seminary in St. Louis that is Lutheran (Missouri synod). Covenant (covenantseminary.edu) is actually the national seminary for the Presbyterian Church in America.

  19. Mr. Subra, you say, “In doing things that we are discussing, is it possible that women could be taking on responsibilities that God has never assigned to them?”

    Men and women do take on extrabiblical assignments daily. That is not to say they regard un-commanded, un-mandated, un-assigned ministry opportunities on the same level or of the same import as those opportunities and responsibilities defined for them by Scripture.

    The Internet itself is a cultural element and tool that was indeed anticipated by God but not addressed explicitly in His Word. We live in a far more literally “global” society than first-century Christians could’ve imagined. I get prayer requests via email — so do you, I’m sure — from India and Africa, I have friends who are missionaries and workers all over Earth, and I read or hear about far-away bombings and natural disasters daily. Do you think we (Christians, male or female) were made to bear such global burdens? More information is more readily available to us, but we are also governed by the demands of our spheres of influence and responsibility. If I were married, and if I had children, I’m sure my time would be more limited and I would need to make tough decisions about my priorities and the allocation of that time — just as men do, when men divide their days across a to-do list a mile-long (only some duties of which are explicitly assigned to them in Scripture). Opportunity never necessitates responsibility, particularly if greater and more urgent obligations exist. If my grandma were in a retirement home, I would not get a guilt trip for choosing not to visit the strangers on her hall. Nor do I blog when I’m too busy to blog. My pastor isn’t golfing, nor visiting with other pastors, nor reading about the Palestine-Israel conflict — nor blogging! — if his wife needs him or if his sermon prep’s not done.

    The how’s and who’s of education, again, might be matters more comprehensively subject to the scrutiny of biblical address. But are exhortation and edification not biblical injunctions directed at both genders? When I corrected Pastor Johnson’s assertion above (and he had already conceded that he was unsure), was I necessarily stepping out of bounds and assuming authority over him? Did the fact that I was a woman providing information that a Google search could supply any indication that I was trying to teach him inappropriately or belittle, humiliate him? Or was I merely demonstrating service? Doing him and other readers a favor? Would not my heart motivation and the tone/content of what I had to say hold any bearing on the answer to that question? I respect Pastor Johnson’s office and the thought and motives which he applies to his communication. Pastor Johnson has communicated with me in public forums, and he can testify that I have opted at times when I’ve disagreed with him to reply privately rather than to air my opinions at his expense or at the risk of being misunderstood. I think he knows, and I hope others would assume, that I am by no means attempting to usurp or undermine authority that rightly belongs to him. Apparently Dr. Sproul would disagree, or at least doubt.

    Is not a blog just another means that can be — by a man or by a woman — rightly used to the praise of God’s glory or wrongly abused to the ridicule of God’s glory? Perhaps Dr. Sproul is right to warn us against the potential conseqences of thoughtlessness and inordinate fascination and provision for evil. But to go so far as to conclude — as he seems to, if I’m reading correctly — that women who communicate online are evidently domineering and/or at least ignorant of their proper places in the kingdom? Such a position, especially since it is indeed extrabiblical and seems based more upon presumptuous and prejudiced opinion, does not persuade.

    * By blogging/writing/reading, women are not necessarily deviating from God-given roles.

    * By blogging/writing/reading, women are not necessarily usurping or undermining God-given authority.

    * By blogging/reading/writing, women are not necessarily assuming an inappropriate teaching position over God-given men.

    * By blogging/writing/reading, women are not necessarily even beginning to tap the potential of their God-given abilities!

    Human nature, however, IS a universal that we deal with down through the ages and across cultures and in both genders. God DOES make very clear boundaries and does draw very distinct lines about human behavior. Apostasy and adultery are sinful things to which the Internet may open a door for the sinful person who wants to use it so (i.e., “sinful” would define all, male or female). I agree that there ought to be careful thought, and that more clearly identifiable obligations ought to be considered and accommodated, that commands ought — of course — be obeyed! The problem is not the gender of a sinner, nor a neutral venue through or on account of which that sinner might sin. The problems are sin and providing for sin.

    You summarize, Mr. Subra, that your “underlying point is that we are to ‘live in keeping with biblical, God-glorifying principles from Scripture — in ALL aspects of our lives’ as [I said]. However, when do we deviate from what is said? When do we decide it’s OK to do something God has not defined as a clear activity or direction?”

    I agree with you that this seems to be the crucial issue pertaining to this discussion, and I’m stating simply that (A) conclusions and decisions on this issue should be informed by Scripture and wisdom rather than ignorance and eisegesis — I think we are agreed upon that! — and that (B) this issue is an issue for both genders and of new venues. I do not deny Scriptural principles’ applicability (albeit in different aspects for different genders and for different roles), nor explicit commands of Scripture — both principles and commands bear profound significance and ought to be our reference point as we (men and women in the Church) seek to monitor our time and energies, contriving how to bring the most glory to our God in His Church and in the world.

  20. Pastor Bob,
    I asked some questions, prior to your trip, which I think you referred to as hard and good. Perhaps they are relevant to this particular thread, or perhaps another, or perhaps you’d rather respond personally, or perhaps you’re simply too busy (which would be understandable). But my curiosity has been aroused, so I’ll repost what I asked:

    “Since it is the authority of teaching within the local assembly, and not the teaching itself, that is out of line for women, I’d be interested as to what contemporary avenues or contexts you’d approve of a women teaching men in.
    A seminary Bible or Sys. class? A non-normative service (such as “revival meetings”)? A ministry workshop/seminar?
    And how do you differentiate between what is local-church and para-church? Would 1st/2nd century Christians have differentiated between various forms of “assembling themselves together” based upon which services were listed in the yellow-pages and which weren’t? [I realize that could be a separate issue…but while we’re on it, I really would be interested in your response to that] To keep from barking up that tree, let me clarify that my question is really how they would have determined when it was appropriate for a woman to give an oration and when it wasn’t. Perhaps there are some common factors in the Acts accounts you mentioned that shed light on that question??”

  21. Scott,
    I’m not ignoring your questions. I’m reflecting on them. As I reflect, I would say that it is too often a tendency to determine principle and doctrine by application rather than wrestling with application issues after the doctrine is established.

    In other words, to juxtapose the truth of a woman’s dignity and equality with men along side the truth of her non-assignment to local church leadership does invite difficult application issues. However, to simply apply suppression to women in almost everything in order to enforce the truth of her non-assignment in local church leadership is wrong. It’s easier, even safer (if you’re not a woman), but it is not wisest.

    This, by the way, is the problem Fundamentalists are having. They are right to say that separation is a biblical principle. They have miserably failed to juxtapose that truth with the truth that God’s people are One Body. It is much easier, even safer, to rigorously apply their style of separation to the point of exalting their application as the purest expression of the truth of biblical separation. While they certainly express the truth of biblical separation, they are not expressing the biblical truth of unity. Thus, their prized expression of a truth is now an expression or error because they have, in many cases, avoided the messy arena of application that necessarily results when we seek to express the whole truth.

    Back to the female discussion: Granted, application requires prayerful, thoughtful, variable, flexible, and humble consideration when we express the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But I prefer the grace God gives to ministries that are willing to patiently and lovingly flesh out the whole truth instead of simply adopting the easy and legalistic application: Woman, thou shalt not speak.

  22. Good point. That is a trend in all our thinking that I hadn’t consciously put my finger on before.
    A couple of follow-up thoughts:
    I reallize it was not your intention, in this latest response, to present every facet of the issue. But you may have over-simplified each side of the scale which we seek to balance (that is, equality vs. no-church leadership, because there are more Scriptural principles to consider than just that of no-church leadership. This sort of patter in reflected also in the home (“wives, submit yourselves to your husbands”). So as we balance the scales, lets make sure all the weights are placed on each side.
    Also, I’m really not disputing what you’re saying- I’m just very curious concerning the distinction between local/para church (is it there, and if so, where), and then specifically how it applies to a women’s teaching liberties. But of course that’s another matter…be sure to pass along the fruit of any study you may put into it.
    Also, for the record, I really am not on the other side of the fence on this issue. I don’t agree with Sproul Jr., and I hope (though I may have slipped) that I haven’t used s*xist language…if it ever looked like I did, please give me the benefit of the doubt, because my sentiments truly don’t lie there. What may have looked like opposition was really just my way of encouraging people to “wrestle with application issues.” I’m inquisitive.

  23. comments removed by [embarrassed] blog owner

  24. I just discovered this post yesterday while following a link to something else I was looking for on Sharper Iron. That was one of the most touching things I’ve ever read — thank you.

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