This was originally written as a letter but I’ve modified it slightly to post on here.
I first affirm the equal worth and value of all people. Men and women stand as equals before God. He does not favor one gender over another but has called all people to himself and he loves all of his children the same. We are equally precious in his sight.
But equality in terms of our value and worth as individuals does not mean we are equal in every way. In mathematics we can say that 5 = 5 and we mean these numbers are the same thing. Among humanity, however, we cannot say that man = woman. It is a simple biological fact that we are not the same and I believe our differences extend beyond biology.
God created men and women to be different and our differences are intended to work together. Men have strengths women do not have, women have strengths men do not have. The only way we can function well as a society is to recognize our differences and seek to use our strengths in ways that compensate for the otherâ€™s weaknesses.
One of the great tragedies of modern society is that we attempt to cover up the differences between men and women. The modern feminist movement claims to work for the advancement of women but what often ends up happening is women are made to act like men, thus obliterating the strengths uniquely given to women. There are many reasons why this distortion has taken place and much of the blame falls on men who have failed to live up to their responsibility. Men have ignored what God has called them to do, leaving a vacuum in society that women have sought to fill. The end result is a society turned upside down.
From the beginning of creation God has intended for men and women to augment one another. We see this in the garden of Eden where in Genesis 2:19-25 we read that something was lacking in man and God created woman to fill the need. We were created to work together.
In the creation of men and women God also reveals a certain hierarchy. When he created Adam and placed him in the garden he gave Adam dominion over all creation. He then created Eve as a helper to Adam in the garden. She was no beast, put under manâ€™s authority like the rest of creation, for she was part of Adam, created from his rib, and given all the worth and dignity he had been given. Nonetheless, she was not given his authority. She was put in the garden as his helper. That is, as Adam ruled over the garden, Eve assisted him.
One of the great tragedies of history is that so many men have mangled what God established. Men have declared themselves lords of their own domains while women have been seen as little more than servants to serve the whims of men. Men who act in this way have committed a grave sin as they distort what God has done and deny the unique value of women.
Nonetheless, there is a right way to maintain the distinction between men and women with men serving as leaders and women serving under their leadership. Even in the New Testament we find this expectation that men and women will work together in complementary ways. Men and women continue to be shown to be equal in terms of worth and value and Christâ€™s work for men and women is the same, but we continue to have distinct strengths and weaknesses that should be used for the glory of Christ and the good of the church.
The New Testament also shows us something that was not revealed in the Old Testament: this relationship between men and women, particularly between husband and wife, has been given to paint a picture for the world of the relationship between Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5:22-33 we see that the husband stands as an image of Christ, leading his family in faithfulness and righteousness. The wife stands as an image of the church, submitting to her husbandâ€™s leadership even as the church is to submit to Christ.
This complementary relationship extends to our work within the church. Several times in the New Testament we find the writer addressing men and women in the church. It is always affirmed that just as leadership in the home is to be held by men, so too leadership in the church is to be held by men. Perhaps the clearest text on this is 1 Timothy 2:8-15 which contains some perplexing words but is fairly clear in verse 12 where Paul writes, I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. Paul shows that the work of preaching and serving as spiritual leader over the people of God is to be carried out by men in the church. But within the church men and women alike continue to serve in various ministries and tasks. It is simply a fact that in the history of the church women have quite often been more obedient than men to spread the gospel and serve the needy.
Much more can be said – indeed, many books have been written on both sides of this issue! – but this letter will be enough to show you my feelings on the subject. I respect and appreciate women who desire to serve God and feel their service should be through pastoral work. In seminary I had several lady friends who were preparing for pastoral ministry. They knew where I stood and I knew where they stood and somehow we managed to remain friends. But I believe that these women are misusing the gifts and abilities uniquely given to them as women and in the process are harming the church by distorting what God has intended.
In our egalitarian society my beliefs on this matter are not popular. But in all things we do not judge truth on the basis of popularity but on the basis of the timeless, unchanging revelation given to us by God in his Word.