You may be wondering why I chose to reference Galatians 6:7 in the title of my series. Here is why:
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Those that sow to the flesh reap corruption. In other words, corruption is proof that someone is ignoring the Spirit and indulging the flesh. And it seems that day by day, more corruption is coming to light in America’s churches. Ministries under investigation for tax fraud. Prominent pastors accused of sexual harassment and assault. Elders exposed for turning a blind eye to pedophiles in the pews. Church discipline that has been flagged as damaging and discriminatory. The scandals continue to pile up.
For decades, many of the leaders embroiled in these scandals have written hundreds of books and preached countless sermons on “spiritual authority.” They have presented themselves as being near the top of a “God-ordained” hierarchy that requires lay believers to submit—unquestioningly—to their direction. They have then used their subsequent success in ministry to “prove” that they have God’s blessing and approval in this system of power and control.
But God is not mocked. The laws of sowing and reaping cannot be subverted. Sowing unto unbiblical authority is sowing unto pride, and pride always reaps corruption. Always. As the Bible says, a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit (Matthew 7:17). Unbiblical church authority is churning out bad fruit by the bushels. It is not God’s will for His Church.
A Prescriptive Reading of a Descriptive Text
The heretical model of church authority builds its foundation on complementarianism, a.k.a. “Biblical manhood and womanhood.” Authority advocates often begin their argument with God’s words to Eve in Genesis 3:16:
To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
Authority advocates claim that with this decree, God established hierarchy in marriage and, by extension, His Church as part of His divine will. The problem is, God’s words here are descriptive rather than prescriptive. In other words, if God intended for men to rule over women as part of His divine will, He would have addressed His words as a command to Adam. What God is really doing in this passage is describing the consequences of the fall. He is outlining the curse of sin. Man’s rulership over woman is part of a curse. It was not part of God’s original design or intent.
Bringing the Curse to Church?
Even though Christ’s death on the cross has freed us from the curse of sin, authority advocates claim that we should continue operating under the consequences of the fall until Christ returns to earth, when he will then establish a new kingdom. Since male rulership over women is a consequence of original sin, it begs to assume that it will not be a part of the new kingdom. Our purpose as Christians is to help establish God’s kingdom on earth. What kingdom are we helping to establish by continuing to operate under a curse? And in what scripture are we admonished to preserve the consequence of original sin in our lives? There is nothing in the gospel to support this way of thinking.
Jesus, The Apostle Paul and 1 Timothy 2
Authority advocates then turn to 1 Timothy 2 to argue that their view of hierarchy does indeed extend to the Church:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
On the surface, it looks clear: teaching is exercising authority over another person, and women are not to do so. And the reason is that Adam was created first and Eve was deceived and sinned first.
Except, that makes zero sense.
1. If order of creation determined order of hierarchy, then birds, plants and beasts would be greater than man.
2. God gave dominion over the earth to mankind only after Eve’s creation, and His decree to rule was addressed to she and Adam both (Genesis 1:28).
3. Adam was not deceived but still sinned. His lack of deception did not exempt him from the consequences of sin. His sin was the same as Eve’s and just as egregious.
4. As stated before, Eve’s loss of equality was part of a curse, not a divine prescription. Christ’s atonement has freed us from the curse of sin.
Also, this verse seems to imply that men have either a natural or divine ruling authority that women are not to usurp. But that goes entirely against what Jesus himself said on the subject:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.” ~ Matthew 20:24-26
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father,and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” ~ Matthew 23:8-12
The Greek word for “authority” in 1 Timothy 2:12 is authentien, and its meanings include to rule, dominate, murder, usurp another’s rights, and claim ownership or authorship over another. So of course Paul would say this is inappropriate for women in the Church. It is inappropriate for everyone in the Church!
In the book I Suffer Not a Woman, authors Richard and Catherine Kroeger provide the cultural context for Paul’s decree, which was addressed to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus housed the grand temple of the goddess Artemis, who was greatly revered in the region. As a result, myths that worshiped all things feminine were common. Some of these myths involved heretical retellings of the Genesis creation account. In some of these retellings, Eve is said to create or give birth to Adam. Others claimed it was actually Adam who was deceived by the serpent and first ate the forbidden fruit. And certain women were infiltrating the church to spread these doctrines in order to garner the praise and worship of men. The entire context of 1 Timothy is the refutation of false teachers. Therefore, 1 Timothy 2 is addressing a certain kind of false teaching, not all teaching.
The Underpinnings of a Heretical Practice
An unbiblical view of male rulership is at the heart of unbiblical church authority. After all, it is very difficult to justify headship and control in the Church without headship and control in the home. A person who believes himself to be the ruling authority in his home will not easily tolerate equality of leadership in his church. These doctrines reinforce each other. Without one, the other crumbles. It’s a house of cards.
Jesus outlined the role of authority for his disciples, and that role involved rejecting titles and positions of lordship. The one who rules is to be like the one who serves (Luke 22:26). Church overseers are to ensure the good work of the church and “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9). There is nothing–nothing, nothing, nothing–in scripture that supports celebrity pastors and the authoritarian style of leadership that has infiltrated the Church. The exercise of such control has its root in a prideful, worldly mindset that seeks to preserve the curse of sin in our lives. It has nothing to do with God, and it will only lead to more corruption and destruction.
More to come.