Semigalitarianism, Undercover Enemy and “feminist air”
When does explaining God’s Word make one an enemy of the church? According to Mike Seaver, a woman who is allowed to teach the Word of God to men, even if she is under the authority of her husband and even if she has received authority from her pastor to teach the Bible (and assuming her pastor is monitoring her teaching), is like a drunken adulterer ministering to God’s people. [Mike Seaver has written a blog post at CBMW identifying the issue of women teaching the bible to men as the undercover enemy of the church. Mike is a pastor at CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and regularly posts at Role Calling see his original article here.]
According to Seaver the church has been breathing “feminist air” and this has caused many churches to become “semigalitarian”. [According to Seaver, semigalitarianism is defined as those people (both men and women) who say that a woman should not be allowed to preach in a church on her own authority, but if she claims to be under the authority of her senior pastor (who is a man) and under the authority of her husband (who is obviously a man) then it is okay for her to teach men in the church.] But while Seaver is complaining of “feminist air”, he has unwittingly become infected with a “disease” that allows Christians to see passages of scripture as “clear” (1 Timothy 2:12-13) instead of as a complex passage in its complete context (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
The attitude of identifying godly women as enemies of the church is clearly an aggressive stand equating a woman explaining the meaning of the scriptures with a drunken adulterer. It reminds me of the prejudiced view of the Orthodox Jews who believe that only men are allowed to touch the Torah.
Apparently touching the Bible by giving an explanation of the meaning of a passage now makes one an “undercover enemy.” How far has the church fallen that some feel free to attack our sisters in Christ identifying them as enemies? Notice that Seaver says nothing about whether the woman’s teaching is correct or not. He is lumping true Bible teaching in with error because it is the vessel which is the enemy, not the words that she speaks. It is the mere fact that she would touch the Word of God in public that makes her an enemy. This is the same tradition of the Pharisees who added a restriction on the teaching of God’s Word.
Seavers goes on to say:
Semigalitarianism (Semi-Egalitarianism) is taking place all over the United States in churches that claim to believe in the Inerrancy of Scripture, but they seem to make an assumption that they can declare who has authority in the church to teach.
It is the Word of God that has given the body of Christ authority to operate in our gifts. Who dares to claim to have the authority to deny gifted members of the body of Christ who are living in union with Christ, the permission to teach? Seavers appears to be one of the elite group of males who can deny permission:
There is one major problem to this position. It is 1 Timothy 2:12-13where the Apostle Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first and then Eve.” You see, this verse is in the Bible and to neglect this verse is to disobey the Bible and to disobey the Bible is to disobey the God of the Bible. The church is never given the right to say someone has authority to teach when the Bible says the exact opposite.
Let’s test Mike Seaver’s words and see if they match up with the Bible.
1. Mr. Seaver has taken two verses out of their context and added a meaning that is not there. Where does the Bible say that women, in general, are not given permission to teach the Bible?
2. How is it possible in the male patriarchial view for women to teach other women without a male supervising these women teachers thus there must be at least some men who are required to listen to women teach? How does this fit in with 1 Timothy 2:12?
3. Where is the idea that a woman is not allowed to teach the Bible given a second or third witness in the scripture? Why is every general prohibition repeated in the scriptures but the prohibition of women teaching the bible has no second witness?
4. Doesn’t the direct permission given by Paul allowing every member to prophesy (so that all may learn from them), contradict an assumed and unconfirmed prohibition against godly Christian women’s permission to explain the Bible? Doesn’t ignoring Paul’s authority to allow women to teach in the assembly mean that one is disobeying the Bible and disobeying the God of the Bible?
1 Corinthians 14:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted;
5. Doesn’t Paul’s permission for all to speak and prophesy in the convicting power of the Holy Spirit override any man-made rule that prohibits women from explaining God’s Words from the Bible?
1 Corinthians 14:23 Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?
1 Corinthians 14:24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;
Mike Seaver goes on to give his opinion about the clearness of the prohibition:
If we start trying to reinterpret one passage of Scripture, what stops us from reinterpreting the rest of it? The problem with Semigalitarianism is not just that it has females teaching men in a Sunday School class or from the pulpit, it is that it is ignoring a clear biblical passage.
Is this passage really “clear”? If it is so clear to Mike Seaver, then I wonder why he stopped with verse 13? The passage is connected by the words “for” “and” “but” and “if”, so that the thought doesn’t end until verse 15. Why would Mike Seaver state that this passage is so “clear” when verse 15 is considered to be one of the hardest passages of scripture to understand? Why would he state so confidently that this passage is “clear” yet ignore the completion of the passage in verse 15 that the church at large has grappled with for several thousand years not able to come to a consensus on what it means without the interpretations contradicting other “clear” bible passages? If Mike Seaver thinks that this bible passage is so “clear” then perhaps he should present his interpretation of verse 15 which is written as the conclusion of the prohibition. The fact that he must remove verse 15 before he declares the passage to be “clear.” This is a “clear” sign that he is twisting the passage himself removing the result that Paul expects from his prohibition in verse 12. If Mr. Seaver is reading this, I challenge him to show me his “clear” interpretation of verse 15 and explain to all of us how verse 15 fits neatly into Paul’s prohibition.
I know many women who are excellent teachers (my wife being one of them) and they are to use their gifts to teach other women (Titus 2) and to care for their children, but there is a distinct absence in the Bible of a man promoting something opposite from what Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12-13.
Mr. Seaver has interpreted 1 Timothy 2:12-13 out of its complete context in order to assert that men are not allowed to listen to women teaching the Bible. If that is the case, then there can be no male overseers for the entire congregation (incuding women) since no man would be allowed to listen and judge what a woman is teaching in order to correct her. Is he really saying that no overseer is allowed to listen to the insights from Scripture that a woman brings? Then no male overseer can manage the household of God since they are restricted from listening to women teach. We are left with a hopeless contradiction when we apply Mr. Seaver “undercover enemy” teaching.
Mr. Seaver sums up his article:
So here are some questions we must ask…because I think a lot of my conservative friends have not even thought through this issue.
Can a woman be a senior pastor in a church?
Can a woman teach in a church?
Can a woman teach men in a church?
Can a woman teach in the church if she is under the authority of the senior pastor and her husband?
When we step outside of the feminist air that we breathe everyday and into an honest look at what God’s Word says, I don’t think the answer is really that hard.
Notice that Mike Seaver says that there is an “answer” (singular) to these questions. Apparently, his answer to these questions is a “clear” no. But the questions have been skewed since “church” is never defined as a building in the scriptures and the term “senior pastor” is not a biblical term. Instead of the questions Mr. Seavers asks, let’s see how these questions should be asked from a biblical perspective.
1. Can a woman be an overseer protecting the body of Christ? (In 1 Timothy 3:1 the term is “anyone” not “any male” aspires or seeks)
2. Can a woman teach the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 14:23, 31 in the assembly “all” may provide for the learning of the assembly)
3. Can a woman teach men in the body of Christ? (Acts 18:26 Priscilla not only taught the teacher Apollos but she corrected his errors implying that in this instance Priscilla did the work of an overseer instructing and correcting)
4. Can a woman teach in the body of Christ if she is under the authority of an overseer and in the presence of her husband? (There is no such prohibition in the scriptures that would disallow a woman presenting correct biblical understanding and if so Priscilla would have been chastized for disobeying God and scripture. In addition, overseers are there to protect the body from error. They are not to stop gifted individuals from using their gifts.)
I believe that the charge that godly Christian women who explain the Scriptures to the general assembly is an act of an “undercover enemy” is both divisive and is in direct contradiction to God’s Word that gives permission for all to prophesy from God’s word so that all may learn.
I also believe that Mr. Seaver has been influenced to be prejudiced against his sisters in Christ and that he hasn’t thoroughly thought through these issues. The church has worked through their prejudice against Gentiles and slaves. It took a long time to set aside the pride that some thought that they were more equal than others. I believe that the Holy Spirit is working in the church today to bring the bride of Christ together without spot and wrinkle. The teaching that women cannot teach the full body of Christ must be laid aside as it fails the scriptural test of truth. The sooner that these men embrace their sisters in Christ, the sooner we can become one body without divisions.