An admired friend wrote a piece in The Bison on Oct. 28 promoting women preachers as “heroes of the faith.” I was surprised that the author, as a faculty member, sounded a discordant note when compared with Harding’s Spiritual Vision statement, which states in part:
“Though we live in a time of significant differences among our convictions, we are determined that Harding University will become captive to neither a rigid legalism on the right nor a formless liberalism on the left. ‘With gentleness and respect,’ we hold to such distinctive practices as the teaching of baptism for the remission of sins and a cappella music and male spiritual leadership in public worship.”
The spiritual vision emphasizes the Bible as “God breathed” and central to our spiritual formation. Yet the article’s case for women preachers offers no reference to the Scriptures. That would be difficult to do, given the roles defined in the Bible by precedent and instruction.
Jesus introduced the kingdom of God, which is not of this world. By the father’s initiative, he made sovereign choices, not culture’s choices. For his apostles, he chose 12 men (Mark 3:13-19). Worthy women became the first witnesses of his resurrection. They could have been appointed as official spokespersons, at least to other women. Yet, with the women present, the risen king appointed another man as the replacement apostle (Acts 1:12-26; 2:14). When women needed to be served, seven “males” were selected to be in charge (Acts 6:3). In early times, some females prophesied (Acts 2:17; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5), but how publicly we are not told. Where details are clearly given, the king made men the leaders, continuing in the New Testament precedents set by God from Genesis. This long-established context makes consistent, understandable and authoritative passages such as 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-38. The latter concludes firmly that “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).
Instead of clear biblical examples of women preachers, the Oct. 28 article drew two examples from obscurity: Abigail Roberts and Nancy Towle of the 1800s. The latter, were she alive, might even “speak from the Benson stage at Lectureship.” Is such a vision laying groundwork for Harding’s Lectureship to follow in the steps of schools that cave to societal pressures? I would rather follow in Jesus’ steps. There is a Christ culture, and it is counter to popular cultures. They are shifting sands. He and his teachings are the rock that never changes. For a balanced survey of roles in the Bible, a study that encourages your own conclusions, please write requesting my free course, “Roles in the Family of God.”
John Reese is expressing his personal views and is not writing on behalf of Harding’s Board of which he is a Trustee. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.