Two Views On Women In Ministry, Edited by James R. Beck

Introduction

The unresolved issue of whether or not women may teach, preach, dispense sacraments, and govern the church, just as men, is a topic of increasing interest.[1]Edited by James R. Beck, Two Views on Women in Ministry presents four essays written by Craig S. Keener, Linda L. Belleville, Thomas R. Schreiner, and Craig L. Blomberg. These four evangelical seminary scholars of New Testament addresses the fundamental concern of whether or not the Bible imposes constraints on women in ministry.[2]Their essays present two egalitarian and two complementarian views of Biblical authority on the role of women in church leadership.[3]Each essay receives three replies arranged in an against, for, against layout based on the essay contributor’s point of view in an effort to shed insight on the controversial topic. This book critique will demonstrate that while judging the role of women in ministry in a fair and balanced approach, no definitive conclusion may be drawn based on the literature as to whether or not the Bible compels restrictions on women in ministry.

Brief Summary

Composed of four chapters, comprised of one essay and three responses each, Two Views on Women in Ministry attempts to present an objective and balanced deliberation on the controversial issue of women in ministry in the evangelical Christian church.[4]According to Beck, evangelicals have not resolved the “exegetical and theological” concern of whether or not churches should restrict women in ministry, nor have they demonstrated a Christ-like benevolence when addressing the topic, or grasped the abundance of progressive scholarship existing in the ongoing debate.[5]Polarized at two opposite extremes, egalitarian and complementarian evangelicals continue the debate over Scripture in respect to God’s intention for females in ministry.[6]

Essayists Belleville, Blomberg, Keener and Schreiner all agree that the debate over the role of gender in ministry is one the most explosive topics in the Christian church today. According to Belleville, it is the unrelenting position of viewing the “relationship between men and women as hierarchical” that continues to fuel the debate.[7]While Blomberg, affirms that gender is not the real issue; the real issue is “scriptural witness” for women leadership.[8]Still, Keener asserts that Christians “backgrounds and traditions” skew their interpretations of Scripture on women in ministry.[9]Whereas, Schreiner claims that Scripture prohibits women from having leadership authority over men.[10]

While Belleville and Keener present an egalitarian view, Blomberg and Schreiner affirm a complementarian perspective. Major themes addressed by all essayist include: male-female relationship, spiritual gifts of women and men, female leaders in the Bible, biblical limits on women,  church history, hermeneutics and terminology, authority, dignity and importance of women, role of men and women in the family and church, and women in ministry.[11]Furthermore, each essayist apologetically supports a position as egalitarian or complementarian and refutes the opposing views through the use of numerous Scriptural references, especially Genesis 1 – 3 and 1 Timothy 2:11 – 15.

Critical Interaction

In addition to Beck’s insight in the introduction and conclusion, the four essayist, Belleville, Blomberg, Keener and Schreiner, also give points of view on the topic of women in ministry. However, Beck maintains neutrality and affirms that the egalitarian and complementarian views are a repertoire of many issues and neither group can rest their case on one scriptural passage or theological conviction.[12]Therefore, the two egalitarians and the two complementarians are tasked with the goal of proving whether or not the Bible limits the role of women in ministry.

 According to Russell, women have been serving the church since its establishment, yet the disagreement over the role of women in church leadership abound.[13]While egalitarians affirm that women should be allowed to exercise their spiritual gifts and hold offices of leadership in the church, complementarians mandate that women should not hold offices of headship in the church.[14]Egalitarian views by Belleville and Keener, and complementarian views by Blomberg and Schreiner, demonstrate intellectual efforts to reveal what the Bible affirms about women in ministry in the church.

In chapter one Belleville presents an egalitarian perspective that equates the argument of women leadership in the church to the concept of “women leading men.[15]Genesis 1 – 2 and Genesis 3:16 – 27 is used to illustrate the theological intentions of the terms “male and female” in those verses in context to their original Hebrew perception.[16] With a review of biblical references from women leaders such as Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah, Belleville establishes leadership of women from the Old Testament and Mary, Mendora, and priestesses from the New Testament with the affirmation that the more Romanized the area was the more visible the female leadership.[17]Belleville concludes that while the “topic is women in ministry, the fundamental issue is that of women leading men and the extent to which they can lead”.[18]

In response to Belleville’s essay, Schreiner a complementarian, disagreed with the analysis of Genesis 1 – 3, and felt that role differentiation between men and women was not demonstrated.[19]However Keener, an egalitarian, agreed with Belleville’s essay, but felt the argument could have been constructed differently.[20]While Blomberg conceded agreement to over ninety-percent of the defense for women in church leadership, including the belief that whether or not women can lead men is the heart of the women in ministry controversy.[21]This general pattern of support for and against, replicated itself throughout the responses of the other three essayists based on the theology of egalitarian or complementarian with an affinity to support the same school of thought.

Chapter two begin with Blomberg’s complementarian objection to Belleville’s claim  on the premises that there are greater issues involved, including personal biases, subjective viewpoints, inappropriate framing of the debate, and world views of women in ministry.[22] Through a survey of Scripture and church history, with weighted emphasis on 1 Timothy 2:8 – 15, Blomberg concludes that “female and male are genders God established in creation to reveal His likeness in the world”.[23]Besides, it has never been irrefutably verified that any “significant wing of the established church over any significant period of time ever permitted women to its highest office” of leadership.[24]Finally, Blomberg concludes by stating that “I could be wrong” in my position.[25]

In Chapter three, as an egalitarian, Keener reflects a similar viewpoint as that of Belleville but with a different fundamental premise. For Keener, Christians come to hold different views on women in ministry because different biblical passages when taken out of context inadvertently result in different conclusions.[26]In addition to the routine defense of women in ministry through Scripture, Keener shared a personal prospective of conviction as an egalitarian. “Paul applies the same titles to the ministries of women and men . . . the two passages used to argue against women’s ministry apply to specific situations in specific congregations,” according to Keener.[27]In conclusion, Keener affirms that traditions and uncertain interpretations of a single passage should not deny the calling of qualified women in ministry.[28]

The final chapter presented Schreiner’s complementarian essay, which concurred with Blomberg that “women should not be appointed to the pastoral office”.[29]According to Scriptural, however, after taking issue with the vague language that the essay embraced, Schreiner concedes that all believers are called to ministry, including women.[30] Schreiner affirmed that women must not fill the top church office or “regularly” instruct adult males in Scripture based on the “admonition” of 1 Timothy 2:12.[31]Schreiner concludes that the differences in functions between men and women do not mean differences in worth regardless of what the world might think.[32]From this point of view Schreiner seems to neglect the original issue, and focus on the concept that “women who must defend their call to pastoral ministry feel their identity and self-respect are brought into question”.[33]

Finally, each essayists presented their points of view, “in the framework of a male-dominated society which reflects the imprint of a long past”,[34]nevertheless, it was clear that there were both strengths and weakness within each essay. Strengths and weaknesses that were clearly addressed by each of the three responses provided, which included but was not limited to contextual, hermeneutics, and personal biases in interpreting Scripture.

 Conclusion

Perhaps this is a preview of what might unfold during the next half a century of theological work, led by women and men[35]was the thought that came to mind at the conclusion of reading Two Views on Women in Ministry. Will five hundred years be enough time to resolve the exegetical and theological issue of whether or not the Bible limits women in ministry? Through convoluted scholarly talents the essayists constructed logical arguments that defended their positions for either egalitarian or complementarian views. While all essayists appeared to achieve their goal, it is unclear whether or not they achieved the stated purpose of confirming whether or not the Bible limits women in ministry. In my opinion, based on the evidence no definitive conclusion may be drawn from the literature as to whether or not the Bible compels restrictions on women in ministry. I just wonder if this is an issue that can be resolved based on current knowledge of ecclesiastical leadership and  tendencies in theology?

[1]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), 1006.
[2]James R. Beck, (Ed.). Two Views on Women in Ministry(Revised ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 21 – 342.
[3] Ibid, Two Views on Women in Ministry, 17 – 343.
[4]Ibid, 15 – 17.
[5]Ibid, 15 – 16.
[6] Craig S. Keener, “Women in Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective.” In Two Views on Women in Ministry, ed. James R. Beck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 205.
[7]Linda L. Belleville, “Women in Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective,” in Two Views on Women in Ministry, ed. James R. Beck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 23.
 [8] Craig L. Blomberg, “Women in Ministry: A Complementarian Perspective,” in Two Views on Women in Ministry, ed. James R. Beck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 23.
[9]Ibid, Keener, 205.
[10] Thomas R. Schreiner,  “Women in Ministry: Another Complementarian Perspective,” In Two Views on Women in Ministry, ed. James R. Beck (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 263.
[11]Ibid, Two Views on Women in Ministry, 17 – 343.
 [12] Ibid, 344.
 [13] Helene Tallon Russell, “ Women: Courageous and Creative in Ministry” Encounter65, no. 1 (Winter, 2004): 2.
[14] Ibid, 17 – 343.
[15] Ibid, Belleville, 23.
[16]Ibid, 25 – 30.
[17] Ibid. 51 – 56.
[18] Ibid, 103.
[19] Ibid, 109.
[20] Ibid, 114.
[21] Ibid, 119.
[22] Ibid, Blomberg, 125 – 128.
[23] Ibid,  127.
[24] Ibid, Schreiner, 128 -180.
[25] Ibid, 183.
[26] Ibid, 205.
[27] Ibid, 248.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Ibid, 271.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Ibid, 320.
[32] Ibid, Schreiner, 322.
[33] Ibid, Schreiner, 265.
[34] Dimtra Koukoura, “The Emancipation of Women as a Challenge to the Church,” Anglican Theological Review84, no. 3 (Summer, 2002): 665.
[35]Karen L. Bloomquist, “In Forty Years, What has Changed … or Not?.” Dialog: A Journal Of Theology49, no. 4 (Winter, 2010): 344.

Bibliography

Beck, James R. (Ed.). Two Views on Women in Ministry. Revised ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Belleville, Linda L. “Women in Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective.” In Two Views on Women in Ministry, 21 – 103. Edited by James R. Beck. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Blomberg, Craig L. “Women in Ministry: A Complementarian Perspective.” In Two Views on Women in Ministry, 123 – 184. Edited by James R. Beck. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Bloomquist, Karen L. “In Forty Years, What has Changed … or Not?.” Dialog: A Journal Of Theology49, no. 4 (Winter, 2010): 340-344.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology, 2d ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013.

Keener, Craig S. “Women in Ministry: Another Egalitarian Perspective.” In Two Views on Women in Ministry, 205 – 248. Edited by James R. Beck. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Koukoura, Dimitra. “The Emancipation of Women as a Challenge to the Church.” Anglican Theological Review84, no. 3 (Summer, 2002): 661-667.

Russell, Helene Tallon. “ Women: Courageous and Creative in Ministry.” Encounter65, no. 1 (Winter, 2004): 1-8.

Schreiner, Thomas R. “Women in Ministry: Another Complementarian Perspective.” In Two Views on Women in Ministry, 265 – 322. Edited by James R. Beck. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.