Answering Ben Witherington

We have an old post of his that we have been meaning to address for some time now but never got around to doing it till now. You can read it at the following link:

#1.One of the reasons I did that thirty some years ago was because of the controversy that raged then over the issue of women in ministry, and more particularly women as pulpit ministers and senior pastors.  Never mind that the Bible does not have categories like ‘senior pastor’ or ‘pulpit minister’,  the NT has been used over and over again to justify the suppression of women in ministry— and as I was to discover through years of research and study,  without Biblical justification.

Two things we would like to address here and first  is that the church is free to title their pastors in any fashion they see fit. God did not really provide any firm instructions on how to label a senior pastor and his assistants  Not having biblical categories for certain positions doe snot necessarily mean we cannot have those designations.

Second, his use of the term ‘suppression’. It is not biblical to use a secular term to describe who God wants to direct his church and how it is to be done. No one is suppressing women because historically, they have never had biblical or Godly permission to be priests or ministers. This is not a ‘rights’ or ‘equality’ issue and we should use our terms carefully when discussing this issue.God does not do rights or equality the way the secular world defines and applies those terms.

#2.Women can’t be ministers, because only males can be priests offering the sacrifice of the Mass etc.   The root problem with this argument is that the NT is perfectly clear that apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists, elders, deacons ARE NOT PRIESTS IN THE NT.

No one ever said that the apostles, etc., were priests and we should not change the biblical instructions because the NT uses a different term than the OT for the same position.

#3.There is no need for a  separate order of priests in the NT because Christ’s sacrifice made obsolete the entire OT sacerdotal system of priests, temples and sacrifices.  The only priesthoods we hear about in the NT are: 1) the priesthood of all believers, which of course includes women, and 2) the heavenly high priesthood of Christ (see Hebrews).

This argument fails because both the OT and the NT provide clear-cut qualifications for who can lead God’s people, temple and church and neither include the idea that someone only has to be a member of the priesthood of believers. Dr. Witherington’s misunderstanding of the term priest as used in the NT leads him to an erroneous conclusion about the ministry and who is qualified to fill that office.

#4. Women can’t be ministers because then they would have headship over men, including their husbands— and this will never do,  and is a violation of the household codes in the NT.

Dr. Witherington’s reasoning in support of this point just do not make any sense nor are they biblical. For example:

As I have argued at length, the patriarchal family was the existing reality in the NT world, and what you discover when you compare what is in the NT and what is outside the NT, is that Paul and others are working hard to change the existing structures in a more Christian direction.  Paul, for example, has to start with his audience where they are, and then persuade them to change

This is read into Paul’s words not taken out of them. There is nothing in the Bible that states that God used a secular cultural standard to set the criteria for his priests or pastors. Then nothing in Paul’s words or any apostles words state that they are working for ‘change’. DR. Witherington seems to have forgotten that it is god who sets the rules for his church not Paul or anyone else.

#5. Women can’t be Christian ministers because specific passages in the NT prohibit it.

Yes they do and if Dr. Witherington studied the consistency of god, he would know that God did not set any rule in the NT that he did not set in the OT. God did not change his views between the writing of the two testaments. Here is one example of Dr. Witherington’s bad logic:

Paul is correcting problems as they arise in the house churches in Corinth.  One such problem is caused by some women, apparently just some wives, who are interrupting the time of prophesying by asking questions.

If this is so, then where are the new instructions from God telling the church to be different from what is recorded in the NT? Dr. Witherington does not produce divinely inspired apostle give and ancient church approved alternative scriptures saying that the criteria given by Paul are only for the Corinthians or Timothy’s and Titus’ churches.

To say that those texts are restricted to certain ancient situations is again reading into the text and applying personal desire over humble obedience to God and his word. Changing the translation of certain words doe snot help his unbiblical case. He has no scripture to support his opinion and his arguments.

#6.Thank God for strong, gifted women in the church.   No, the problem in the church is not strong women, but rather weak men who feel threatened by strong women, and have tried various means, even by dubious exegesis to prohibit them from exercising their gifts and graces in  the church.

This is just uncalled for and a personal attack on most men. Dr. Witherington should know that being a strong woman does not make one qualified for being a pastor of a church. There is also more to overseeing a group of people than standing in a doorway blocking some troops. Yeltsin did that too except he climbed on a tank but that action did not make him a good and solid leader.

Dr. Witherington tries to rewrite certain passages of scripture in order to make his arguments work. He also uses modern cultural arguments and feelings to further his misunderstanding of the Bible and God’s instructions on who can be his leaders. His opposition to patriarchy is a modern protest not a biblical one.No one yet who argues in favor of violating God’s instructions has mounted a biblical argument to support their disobedience to God’s will for his church and people.

Yes they use the Bible but their use of scriptures is erroneous and lacking in understanding of what is being said in the Bible.