Mega-Post: Female Pastors, Neo-Feminism, and The Scary Words Submission, Quiet, and Penis

In reference to this.

Feel free to skip around on this post.

Anonymous questions:

– Hi. I enjoyed your last post. I am a woman and have been struggling with Scripture for a long, long time about complementarianism vs egalitarianism in the church. Despite my struggling, my conviction is the former. I am guessing yours is as well. So can you give me your view (and on submission, historical context of Paul’s teachings, etc)? Also, what if there are few men in a certain area unable to do pastoral work for w/e reason.. is it better to have a woman do this work rather than no one?

– In reference to your recent post about qualifications for pastors, could you also address this issue: must pastors be male?

– Can you explain 1 Timothy 2:11?

Please allow me the humility to throw down some groundwork for our discussion.  Also please know that I am one person interpreting a controversial text, and disagreements here shouldn’t lead to division.  Feel free to skip around if you read on.

I can’t continue unless I explain neo-feminism.  It is a form of feminist values gone wrong, in which instead of equal rights calls for a debasing of masculine values and a superiority of feminine ones.

I have little problem with feminism since its true spirit is to heal the historical deficit of women’s rights.  But neo-feminism is a clever corruption, often subtle and much more entrenched in our culture and mentalities than we presume, as we’ll soon see. 

We are also such a product of our times that we’re blinded to much of the ideas that have clawed into our psyches.  C.S. Lewis’ famous argument of chronological snobbery is helpful to read here.

No doubt that I will say disagreeable things and I don’t claim to have all the answers.  Yet I stand on these convictions because I don’t want to be a relativist passionless fool who compromises in a politically correct culture of catering.  As best as I know how, these are my personal biblical foundations.  Please seek for yourself as well.

– Neo-feminism has aspired to ambiguous courtesy for women at the expense of necessary correctional truth.  Both men and woman need rebuking.

– Neo-feminism has over-emphasized and over-sensitized us to female comments in the Bible, which has inadvertently contributed to chauvinist propaganda (by wrongly defining “submission” which gives ammo to chauvinists), and has undermined the feminist movement itself.  

On an objective basis, if we assume from female comments that the Bible is anti-female, then that same basis should actually conclude that the Bible is anti-male. 

– The ratio of harsh commands and judgments given to men in the Bible are exponentially greater. If you say the Bible is anti-female based on neo-feminist criteria, you also have to say it’s anti-male, which means any claims of “matriarchal superiority” are dead. We cannot say the Bible is anti-either or anti-both.  None of those arguments are internally consistent. 

– Anyone who concludes on female views of the Bible without a proper context of the entire Bible narrative is under-qualified for any balanced nuanced conclusions. 

– Neo-feminism creates a destructive judgmental filter of reading “bigotry” in any statement to form its own conclusions about oppression, which in itself is oppressive and bigoted. 

The Bible everywhere commands submission and humility for both men AND women. We are all called to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). When men are called to submit we find this acceptable; when women are called to submit then our indoctrinated ingrained neo-feminism is provoked. This is a “mark of our time” that is culturally conditioned and entrenched in every form of media. 

– Every single Bible passage about women also includes harsher rebukes for men. Neo-feminism wrongly emphasizes only female comments to concoct a one-sided argument.

– Pavlovian-conditioned historically-cultural elements of neo-feminism decry biblical commands to women in 1 Timothy 2, when such commands are also explicitly (and more harshly) given to men in the very same passage. 

– In 1 Timothy 2, Paul says women should not exercise authority over men but to remain quiet. Paul wrote two kinds of doctrinal statements: general doctrine, and specific doctrine for a specific church issue.

Paul is addressing a particular issue — that women were shouting down men in church — so of course Paul was aghast that women were getting up to yell at the poor preacher. It would be reasonable that if a woman had questions, she could ask her husband later, which is what a team does. 

Paul makes a sweeping statement for women because he wants to ensure that other churches don’t tolerate disorderly disruption within a church service. These commands are perfectly reasonable for a service, and a church sign posted “Quiet During Service” has the same effect. This would also make sense at a wedding, a speech, or your kid’s first play.  The only “problem” we have is that Paul addresses women, which again, is a symptom of our neo-feminist culture.

– An unhealthy focus on a singular word or gender causes a narrow-minded focus, which creates neo-feminist hatred and chauvinist ammo. If you think “quiet” is such a scary oppressive word towards women, In 1 Timothy 2, Paul had JUST finished telling the men to pray with purity, stop getting angry, and quit quarreling. In other words, men needed to quit whacking off, getting pissy, and bickering like morons.

Is Paul then anti-male? Is he anti-male to say stop godless chatter, don’t tempt weak-willed women, and respect your elders? Or is it suddenly wrong to correct women on some things? Can women be humble enough to understand “quiet” just as much as men are basically told to “shut up”? 

Can we assume Paul is actually speaking wisdom for the church’s good? Would the verse have been better if Paul said, “Women, learn by getting uppity and crazy; men, piss each other off and sleep around and punch each other all you want” …? 

– If an instruction manual said “Kids and women board life rafts first,” no one would accuse the manual of anti-male sentiment. If the same manual said, “Men first to lead women and children on the raft,” no one would accuse the manual of anti-female and anti-children sentiment. 

– Please also note that Paul makes the argument for women’s attitude NOT by virtue, but by original sin (1 Timothy 2:14). It was the woman who introduced the forbidden fruit to the man; the woman tried to “instruct” the man.

But it was also the man who failed to lead, which is why Paul follows that Eve’s seed (1 Timothy 2:15 is still about Eve) will fulfill Genesis 3:15, the seed that will crush Satan. Overall, in this passage Paul describes the specific failures and victories of BOTH men AND women. I hope we are all humble enough to hear what hurts and also hear what’s hopeful. 

In general, pastors should be male since men should responsibly carry the burden of leading. The Bible does not explicitly say women cannot be pastors, but it shouldn’t have to. While I believe women CAN be pastors, I wouldn’t expect this to be the norm. I may ask a woman to carry all the groceries inside, but just because she can do it does not mean I will make her, much less shoulder the responsibility of a church. 

– A true spirit of feminism supports that women can do all a man can do, but that she shouldn’t HAVE to. Before that sounds inadvertently sexist or cliche, what I mean is that a woman should not feel culturally pressured to prove herself up to a “man’s duty.”  A true feminist woman should have both freedom to choose and freedom from a “prove-it-to-everyone” mentality (which is what neo-feminism has boiled down to).  

I believe soldiers should be mostly men NOT because women cannot be soldiers, but because women should not have to if there are able-bodied men who can. A woman should be free to enlist to the military but ALSO be free not to be driven to an occupation out of misguided guilt or competition. Men should bear the brunt of responsibility for dying for his country. If war breaks out and a nation MUST defend itself, then men should primarily HAVE to carry the responsibility while women should be free to choose.

– In the same way, male pastors should carry the burden of dying for his church. As it happens, women CAN be called to serve in the military or serve as pastors. 

– May I also add that I have learned a TON from women.  I have listened to female preachers and have been genuinely blessed and convicted.  That shouldn’t be a surprise.  My senior pastor’s wife has taught me more about Bible application than my entire three years of seminary. 

– The Bible is clear that wives submit to husbands. If you’re drenched in neo-feminism, you’ve taken that verse out of context and made it scary and oppressive. Again, subtracting balance and nuance to support claims of bigotry is in itself bigotry.

First, Ephesians 5:21-33 does not ever say women submit to men.

Second, the first verse says everyone must be submitting to one other (Ephesians 5:21).

Third, the following verses command a man to die for his wife. A husband is told to love his wife as Jesus loved the church and gave himself up for her; the Greek work for “gave himself” is paradidomi, which means to “give into the hands of another, to give into one’s power, to give over to death.” This means not only does the husband submit, but he has the additional burden of giving his life for the provision and protection of his wife and family.

Fourth, the burden of a household’s health rests on the husband; he is not called to lead but rather is already called the “head.” This is not a suggestion, but the husband is either a good one or bad one.

Fifth, the wife is called to submit to her husband’s service, almost (but not quite) the same way we “submit” to a waiter’s service in the restaurant. If the husband is not fulfilling his godly service, the wife needs to referee. Any husband who says “my wife better submit” is already a moron and his leadership must heretofore be revoked. 

Sixth, would it have been better if the Bible did not call for men to be leaders in the home? Should the verse have said, “Women be responsible and work hard, men just kick up your feet and don’t worry about it” …? I believe every sensible women looking for a future husband is looking for a man who can lead. Certainly no woman is looking for a man who can’t or doesn’t want to lead.

Seventh, should we forget that women and wives hardly had any rights up to this point in history?  God’s design for marriage had been corrupted into a legal property exchange so that two families could accrue wealth and status.  The New Testament axioms of marriage are a return to God’s design, in which nurturing, cultivation, encouragement, and genuine feeling are “re-introduced” into marriage. 

The Hebrew culture is notorious for breaking the chains of poisonous pseudo-marriage. The concept of engagement was born as a Jewish custom that often lasted a year, in which sexual purity was maintained in order to sculpt an actual relationship.

– A last word on the difference between feminism and neo-feminism: Actual feminism fights against the deficits of a woman’s rights and fights for the equality of perceived value in classically male-dominated circles. These are worthy noble goals. 

Neo-feminism, no matter how well-intentioned, concocts a forceful power-grab for women at the expense of men. It ends up bashing males with generalizations and bolsters unreasonable expectations of males, such as the dismissal of masculinity and ignoring a man’s self-worth. It can also distort a woman’s purpose and/or marginalize a woman as an androgynous non-feminine being. 

–  About head covers: The early church custom was historically to keep head covers for women (1 Corinthians 11). Paul had no problem continuing the tradition or commenting on its regulation.  Since such a tradition was about keeping a spirit of order, Paul uses theses cultural symbols to teach about husbands being the responsible head, wives being modest, and both husbands and wives belonging to one another (1 Corinthians 7:4). 

About the term “Helper” — this term is also used of God and the Holy Spirit. 

– I am a complementarian because I confess that men and women have some obvious fricking differences. You can ignore that if you want to; I won’t. Obviously men and women are of equal value and dignity, like a pair of gloves, but gloves fit different hands. Men and women include different spheres of roles. Genetic clues like breast-feeding and pregnancy should clue you in on that. Only an oppressive society would streamline men and women into the “same type” of person. 

– Please again allow me the humility to share with you how deep neo-feminism has undercut our culture. I once took a feminism class in college that was pretty great, but the professor insisted men and women are the same. I disagreed. Strangely, the professor played up female “beauty” and the ugliness of masculinity. Women were called real “beautiful” creatures while men were called animals with an extra piece of meat between their legs. The class mostly cheered and agreed. 

On the final paper in class, we had to write on the statement, “The penis is just a piece of flesh.” I wrote (nearly screamed) that I refused to buy into this violently bigoted lie, that men had real worth and value, that we were created for responsibility and honor with dignity and courage and burdened to lead families and rightly respect women.

I wrote that the male penis was a “furious piece of equipment” that could give life or ruin lives. I wrote that a man’s love for a woman, his willingness to die for her, his masculine drive to move mountains for her, his urge to woo her every day of her life, is an unparalleled passion in every culture in the world. Maybe it’s because of his penis; or maybe it’s because a man is defined by more than his penis.

I got an A+.

Originally posted here on my Tumblr.

17 thoughts on “Mega-Post: Female Pastors, Neo-Feminism, and The Scary Words Submission, Quiet, and Penis

  1. Thank you for all of this! What a great post. Though I’m not sure I agree with you on your view that under certain cases women can be pastors.


  2. This is good! I knew, but didn’t really know how to explain, the difference between feminism and neo-feminism but what you say makes so much sense! Its interesting how the feminist movement grew from something good, the desire and action to seek equality and dignity for women, into something destructive and completely counter to its original purpose. Food for thought though. Thanks!


    1. Thank you! I definitely love feminism. Equal empowerment of the sexes is an important issue in which the world is still very regressive. But yes, the extreme is so far off the map of any good intention. Thank you again. 🙂


  3. J.S. – This is great. But I challenge you, if you can do this well with everything else, you can do better with Eph. 5:21-33. What was all that waiter stuff?? Eph. says wives should be subject to their husbands as the Church is subject to Christ…what does that mean? As far as I know, the Church is never called to “referee” Christ’s leadership of it…


    1. Thank you. I believe you’re right on the analogies, generally they don’t hold up perfectly and these don’t either. Even human marriage itself is a reflection of God’s love for us. If you have a better analogy, would love to hear them!


  4. This is the best commentary on this issue that I have ever read! Very well balanced and in-line with scripture. Most people believe either the neo-feminist position or the ANTI neo-feminist position (in other words, they just have reactionary dogmatic beliefs that are very anti-women and not at all in-line with God’s heart on the matter). Looking at these passages through the lens of the culture during the time of the early church formation (instead of the lens of our OWN culture) brings a whole new (right) perspective on this matter.


    1. Thank you dear friend. These passages in the Bible are certainly a bit difficult to wade through, but with a bit of historical re-orientation on our part, will continue to convey the goodness of God’s heart.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have always understood complementarianism to mean “men are spiritual leaders, women are followers.” Tie that into the verses about women not having authority or being allowed to speak and many complementarians make the argument that the role of pastor is only for men (88% of all pastors are male – not because women don’t want to be, but are often not allowed unless they are a husband / wife team.) It is the husband’s role to work, provide, and protect. It is the wife’s role to cook, clean, and care for children at home and it’s almost identical in the church. You don’t see very many men involved in childcare or teaching Sunday School – for these areas are traditionally ‘women’s work’. It’s the idea that “equal but different” sure, men and women are equal, but they’re so different that God said that pastors have to be husbands of one wife, so women can’t be pastors. Sure, men and women are equal, but God said that men are the head over women, so women can’t have spiritual authority, etc. Their picture of submission emphasizes a wife’s submission to her husband, and ignores the rest of the verse. What you’re talking about are the biological differences that are involved in having children – these church says that there are far deeper spiritual differences. Some even preach that God created ‘male’ spirits for male bodies and ‘female’ spirits for female bodies – creating a permanent gender divide and role fitting for male and female believers. They all point back to God and say, “I’m sorry if you think it’s sexist, but it’s God’s word.”

    Egalitarians would say that “there’s no male or female, etc. In Christ Jesus” and that men and women are equal before God. God is just as happy with a woman preacher as a stay-at-home dad. It’s not about making people fit roles, but letting each person what works best for them and praising God through how they live their lives. Egalitarianism calls for mutual submission. Egalitarianism allows for women to choose to be stay at home moms if that’s what they want. It allows for women to be C.E.O.s of a fortune 500 company if that’s what they want. Same for men.

    Like Christianity, feminism is a spectrum of beliefs. There are extremes at both ends – one is a picture of women that want to take the place of men, instead of 80% male leaders, replace it with 80% female leadership – to put the shoe on the other foot so to speak. That’s true of Christianity, there are interpretations that would require women to be stay at home mom’s – think quiverfull here. We see the Duggers on t.v. and think of them as being different than what we believe. But there is always a happy medium – and Christianity and feminism have much in common: the idea that women should be respected, should not have to fear for their safety, should have rights to own property and have an education. And yes, some feminists are pro abortion even though a majority of babies that are aborted are female because by and large, some other cultures of the world thinks so little of women that throwing them away as babies is acceptable.


    1. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, I really love long comments and the fact that you took time to expand upon each angle with care. It’s a tough, sensitive conversation that I think requires perhaps more words and not less, but no less than the truth of our accorded dignity.


  6. I’m taking so much away from this post. Thank God, for your obedience to Him. It’s hard, sometimes, to see my value in God’s eyes through Scripture, but you’ve clarified so much and given me and my friends so much to think about. Thank you.


  7. A+ For sure. I have always felt growing up that I’ve been pressed into a neo-feminist mentality that devalues and debases male value. Thank you so much for this post!!


  8. Well said, J.S. Well-balanced piece, I find myself in agreement with most everything you said. In several places I found myself saying out loud “Yeah!!” 😉

    Question for you: Near the beginning, where you referenced 1 Timothy 2. You said Paul was “addressing a specific issue, that women were shouting down men in church”.

    Can you tell me where you are finding that? Not trying to start anything, honestly. Just curious . I am nowhere near a Bible scholar, but I’m not finding that anywhere. I can see where Paul was telling the men to quit bickering and disputing, but where do you pick up that the women were shouting down the men? Enlighten me?


    1. Thank you for your kind words!

      I found this mostly by context and implication, as Paul was in the habit of always responding to developing situations (especially in 1 Corinthians about speaking in tongues and disunity). That’s why it sometimes appears that Paul is randomly introducing new topics into a passage, but he’s actually directly speaking into a problem as specifically as possible. This was different than John, who was very broad and black-and-white in his letters, and also Peter, who mostly wrote about suffering and persecution.

      The first verse in 1 Timothy 2 starts by addressing the leaders of the Roman Empire, perhaps a dig at Nero, and then Paul uses that as a platform to speak about leadership to both men and women in the church. In other words, if we are to pray & respect our kings who might be out of order, then that should extend to male and female leaders who are out of order. Paul does two sharp turns: 1) he tells men to “lift up holy hands without anger or disputing,” which implies that men might have even been fist-fighting within the church, and suddenly 2) he tells women not to teach over a man, which could only imply this was a growing problem, and could even be a result of the women assuming that the men were so cantankerous that they had no credibility to be teaching. But just as they were to respect Nero, they were to respect leaders who weren’t doing the best job.

      I hope that helps. I can see how it might be very open to interpretation, and I might be “reading into” the text a bit.


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