Ask Mike Day (October 22-26, 2018)

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

Mike Day is serving with the Zacharias Trust team in the UK as an OCCA Fellow. This week, he’s available to reply to our honest questions.

I’m always happy to host South African leaders in Connect in the hopes that they’ll invite me to a braai next time I visit their beautiful country (my wife is from Lesotho).

Mike often speaks to the following titles: ‘Can a Thinking Person Believe in God?’, ‘Can We Trust the Bible’, ‘Christianity and Freedom: Help or Hindrance?’ and ‘Jesus: Myth, Man, or More Than?’

Please ask your heartfelt evangelistic or apologetic questions to him - the resulting conversation will benefit all of us!

If you want updates for future weeks with the RZIM team, join the @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM group or update your notifications to ‘watching first post’ for the #ask-rzim Category.


Mike Day’s bio:

Mike Day joined the Zacharias Trust as a part-time OCCA Fellow in September 2016. He was graduated from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) and is in the process of reading for a postgraduate diploma in theology at the University of Oxford. He currently holds a postgraduate qualification in education from the University of South Africa and a first-class BA in English literature and classics from the University of Cape Town.

Prior to moving to Oxford, Mike taught English at an all-boys high school and was a member of staff at Common Ground Church, Cape Town, for five years. He is passionate about communicating the reasons for and relevance of the Christian message in contemporary culture, particularly the historicity of Jesus and the Bible.

(Bill Brander) #2

[Aside: Carson I’ll happily braai for you, but you’ll have to do a ‘talk’ first.]

Mike, can you please expand upon how a “thinking person” can believe in God? When someone asks you that question, what is your response?

Thank you


(Butch) #3


Is it true Pretrib rapture has only been taught for about 185 yrs? Pretrib or post trib rapture and why?

(Eunike Misiekaba) #4

Hi Mike

  • I’d appreciate your comment on the following statement; in your view, is this complete or incomplete answer to the question: " how do we know that what we believe is true?

As Christians, we know that the faith we hold in and about the God of the Bible is true, because we have reliable evidence, from which we infer our standard and meaning for living, that enables us to hold and trust in the realness of the things promised in the Bible, even if they(some) have not been experienced yet.

Thank you.


(Lawrence ) #5


In Timothy 2:16 (KJV), it says “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. What I would like to know is the exact meaning of the phrase “is given by inspiration of God”.

According to Strong’s Concordance Dictionary, the definition of the aforementioned phrase (g2315) is ‘divinely breathed in’.

I’m having trouble understanding the definition. Can you help?

Many Thanks


(Tara Pauls) #6

Hi Mike,

I am wondering about an apparent inconsistency in the old testament. David’s eating of the bread of the presence when he and his men were hungry seems to be in direct contradiction to what happened to the man who reached out to steady the Arc as they were bringing it back to Jerusalem. Are there different levels of lawfulness with respect to the worship of God pre-Christ?

(Michael Day) #7

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your message and question.

The question, ‘Can a thinking person believe in God?’ is, in my experience working in churches and on campuses, often posed by at least two distinct groups: (1) Christians who are suspicious of reason for a number of reasons, but usually because of incomplete or unhelpful definitions of ‘faith’; and (2) skeptics and atheists who see reason and faith as essentially incompatible.

Let’s tackle (1) first.
Christians have come to be suspicious of reason. This may be because a certain reading of Scripture has led to a belief that sin means we cannot ever use reason and come to a godly or good conclusion. Sin has so marred us that we are too depraved to trust reason on any level. While there are elements of truth here - i.e. each part of us has been effected by sin - it is not true that our humanity has been so marred that we represent nothing of the God whose image we continue to bear, even after the Fall (e.g. his rationality). This thinking is quickly dispelled by a thorough reading of Scripture. We are addressed as thinking agents - called to engage our minds in the content and logic of the Gospel, in order to be saved and discipled. The writers of Scripture assume we have this moral and intellectual capability. Others struggle with the idea of a thinking faith because they fear their faith will be undermined when they engage with the evidence and opposing arguments from skeptics. However, this is a mentality totally foreign to church tradition. From the apostles, to the church fathers etc., the Christian faith has been gladly and deeply studied. Moreover, in my own experience, delving thoughtfully into the truth claims of the Christian faith has not undermined my faith but revealed the solid gold of its truthfulness. Christians need to take Paul’s warning seriously, ‘Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up’ (1 Cor 8:1), yet at the same time recognise that ours is an intelligent faith (2 Cor 10:5). We are called to love God with everything, including our minds (Mark 12:30). Moreover, Peter tells us: ‘always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1 Peter 3:15). While it is certainly helpful to recognise the problems of overintellectualizing our faith, it seems we cannot escape the fact that ours is a thinking faith.

What about group (2)?
The objections here often sound something like this: ‘Christianity is about faith, i.e. a leap in the dark, but I am someone who stands on the side of reason and so cannot accept its unfounded claims.’ What they are trying to say, I think, is that one must either be a person of reason or a person of faith. One cannot be both. However, this is a false choice. It is an incorrect line of thinking for at least three reasons: (1) how Christianity envisages faith within its own tradition; (2) the history of people who have embraced both reason and faith, i.e. a reasonable faith (e.g. Christian academics past and present); and (3) the logical problem of materialism to belief in rationality. In the first instance, we would do well to note that the God of the Bible is considered ordered and rational (“Hear O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one…”, Deut 6:4). When talking of the Judeo-Christian God, we are not talking of a being psychologically chaotic and divided, but a God unified and rational. Thus, what he creates, what comes from Him, is also ordered and rational. Furthermore, the way faith is defined in the NT, couldn’t be further from the above definition of faith. ‘Faith’ or Gk pistis means: “persuasion,” i.e. being convinced on the basis of good evidence. This is everywhere expected in the Gospels – that people would come to trust in Jesus the Messiah because of his signs, power, authority and teaching, i.e. be convinced of his Divine Messiahship (e.g. John 20:31). Secondly, men and women of great learning in history have not seen their faith or their reason to be in opposition. Rather, they found faith to be a kind of fuel for their learning and inquiry. John Lennox in God’s Undertaker mentions Isaac Newton as a brilliant example: when Newton discovered the law of gravitation he did not say, “Now that I have gravity I don’t need God.” Instead, he wrote the Principia Mathematica, the most famous book in the history of Science, hoping it would persuade the thinking person to believe. Newton is one example, there are many others. Finally, we could pose a challenge to the skeptics and atheists on the very ground they have challenged us: on the basis of reason and knowledge. The Philosopher Alvin Plantinga has advanced this argument powerfully. If we take Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection to be correct, how is it that we can trust reason? If we are simply the end product of a mindless and unguided process, how is it that we could trust anything our brain tells us? The process of evolution is not geared towards reason or truth, but merely survival. The rejection of a Transcendent in the defense of reason, turns out to cast doubt on reason itself (something Darwin himself recognised). Whereas, on the theistic view of the world, epistemology and rationality makes perfect sense.

I hope this helps to generate further thoughts for you, Bill.

Blessings and warm regards,

Mike D.

(Michael Day) #8

Hi Eunike,

Thanks for your message and question. I enjoyed reading what you have written there, well done on giving this some solid thought in order to communicate the Gospel effectively with those around you :smiley:

My first thought to your question is another question: “Who am I speaking to and where are they at?” Whenever we are attempting to open up a conversation with someone regarding belief in God, it is crucial to answer the questioner and not just the question. I am sure as an Academy Alum this was a big theme in your studies and practice. But it can’t be emphasised enough: let’s probe and ask questions of our skeptical friends until we feel we have an accurate sense of where their question is coming from. Then we will know which part of the Gospel the Hoy Spirit might lead us to explain/ apply.

Supposing we have done the above effectively, I have found it helpful to have the following in mind wrt why we believe.

Explanatory Power

In the same way that our justice system comes to a verdict through inference to the best explanation (e.g. “because such and such occurred in this place at this time, we might reliably conclude…”), we could think of our reasons for believing Christianity is true because it is the best explanation of the data.

Evidence Demanding Explanation

Very briefly, below are some of the pieces of evidence we can consider. Remember, it is no one piece of evidence that convinces ether way, but the cumulative case that can be made considering all the evidence that has come to light.

(1) The Cosmological Evidence

Why is there something rather than nothing? Who/ what is responsible?

The Kalam Cosmological Argument addresses agency and causality in an interesting three-step syllogism:
(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its beginning.

Have a look at William Lane Craig’s usage of this argument:

Some try to say evolution is the cause, but this is false. Evolution only comes into effect after there is already something. We are attempting to get to the origins question, which is necessarily prior to the mutation and adaptation of material properties and life.

(2) The Teleological Evidence

This is the fine-tuning argument. The universe is incredibly detailed and fine-tuned for life. How do we explain this? What are the chances of this occurring by pure accident?

It is highly unlikely that this universe, fine-tuned perfectly for life as it is, came about as a result of chance. We need to be careful of the ‘God of the gaps’ fallacy: i.e. ‘We don’t know who did it therefore it was God.’ However, if it is highly unlikely that chance is the cause, how likely by comparison is God as an explanation?

(3) The Moral Evidence

The first two categories can seem a little ‘cold’, but the next few are more personal/ relational oriented.

The way we approach our justice, legal, correctional, and historical etc. practices as a society demonstrate that we believe there is such a thing as right and wrong, e.g. murdering babies for spectator pleasure is wrong (not just bad taste).

However, what is it that grounds and explains our moral intuitions and the necessity of objective moral values? If God does not exist, and if there is no transcendent, then at best we have relative values. But then we cannot absolutely pronounce good to be good and evil evil - at best we could say, ‘I prefer this over that.’

However, we know that we cannot live with moral relativism. What is able to explains this best? Sam Harris argues we can ground objective moral values in a scientifically established ‘wellbeing’; but his hypothesis is deeply flawed. Christians (and many of other religions), on the other hand, acknowledge God as a source and explanation for morality.

(4) The Historical Evidence

Under this category, we find many touchy areas/ points of contention that skeptics might raise, e.g.:

  • The Historical Jesus (did he live? what did he really say and do?)
  • The Reliability of the Gospels (eyewitness testimony or later? Jesus’ words or apostolic invention?)
  • The Reliability of the Bible as a whole (manmade document? manuscript errors? doubt over transmission?)
  • The Morality in the Bible (is it sexist? does it condone slavery?)
  • What explains the historical rise of Christianity (Resurrection? Fabrication? Hallucination?)

Surprisingly for many, these and many other objections besides can be answered satisfactorily. Once it has been established on firm historical grounds that Jesus lived, is the source of the sayings and deeds in the Gospels, and his resurrection is the best explanation for the otherwise inexplicable rise of Christianity, we must ask: what do you say to that?

(5) The Experiential Evidence

The personal and experiencial side of Christianity must be brought into the picture: many have experienced God’s presence, touch of healing physcially/ emotionally, answered prayer et al. Essentially, the experiential element is our evidence that what Christianity says it will do, it does. it is a truth experienced. It is incredibly powerful to share this with someone asking why we believe Christianity to be true.

In Conclusion

There are of course more pieces of evidence that could be added, but even just considering these ‘unavoidable five’ - taken together, how does one explain them? What is the best explanation for the evidence?

The only reason to believe something of significance is if we have good reason to think it’s true. We look at the case and, like the good judge, we consider the evidence and go where it leads.

In short: we believe Christianity is true because it best answers the data of reality in a manner that is (1) coherent, (2) corresponds to reality and (3) is liveable.

I hope this helps, Eunike, and doesn’t make anything more confusing. Please let me know if you need further clarification and I would be happy to respond.

All the best,
Mike D.

(Michael Day) #9

Hi Lawrence,

Greetings and thanks for your question.

The KJV has given a helpful and correct interpretation of the original Greek by allowing us to consider the word’s implications. It is building from the literal interpretation of the Greek word theopneustos (i.e. theos ‘God’ + pneo ‘to blow, breathe on’): God-breathed or breathed on by God. This is technically more literal than the rendering “given by inspiration from God,” though the Greek does carry that meaning.

The word theopneustos is a hapax legomenon, meaning that it only occurs once in the entirety of the NT. Whenever we encounter a word like this we should take care and take note. We need to proceed carefully because we do not have a reference in the NT canon against which to compare and make sense of it. However, we should also take note because the author has decided to choose this word for a very specific reason to communicate something of the utmost importance (if this were not the case, he could have used another more generic word).

Philip Towner, in his commentary The Letters to Timothy and Titus (NICNT Series) notes regarding this God-breathed word: “The process envisaged, which gives to the texts of Scripture this character, is almost certainly not to be understood in the strict sense as divine dictation… Rather, more on the order of Philo’s conception of the process of Scripture’s inspiration, God’s activity of ‘breathing’ and the human activity of writing are in some sense complementary (cf. 2 Pet 1:21). Thus, Paul’s insertion (coining?) of the adjective at this point is intended to underline the authority of the OT, text by text, on the basis of its derivation from God” (p. 589).

I hope this helps, please do let me know if you need or would like further clarification.

Warm regards,
Mike D.

(Michael Day) #10

Hi Tara,

Thank you, this is an interesting question to consider. I will attempt to respond, though it isn’t something I have previously thought much about. I would be interested to hear what your thoughts have been too.

It seems clear from the Scriptural evidence that the members of the Tribe of Levi were exclusively given to look after the holy elements of the Temple, including the Bread of Presence and carrying the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:10-30; Deut 10:8). The penalty for anyone who touched the ark (including Levites) was death (Num 4:1-15, esp. vs. 15). In 2 Samuel 6:6 we read that Uzzah touched the ark, because the oxen stumbled, and was killed immediately. So we conclude: touching the Ark is an act in contravention of a direct command from the LORD, the result being death.

However, the situation with the Bread of the Presence does seem to be different. In Numbers 4 the Kohathites are given responsibility of the Bread (see also Lev 24:5-9). While it was technically unlawful for David and his men to eat the Bread, as the Levites are to eat the bread before new bread is presented, there doesn’t seem to be a a clear punitive consequence outlined (so far as I can see; cf. 1 Samuel 21:1-6 for the story of David and his men). Regardless if there is a punitive element or not in the OT Law, Jesus provides an interesting and authoritative interpretation of these events that should act as our interpretive standard. A paraphrased summary of Jesus’ response: Yes, David and his men ate the bread which was not lawful to do, but don’t you see: this is the proof that the Law is designed for man’s benefit, not his ill, and I am the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12// Mark 2).

My summary: there appears to be a distinction between the two acts, with a clear capital punishment outlined wrt touching the Ark, and no like punishment given for violation of the ceremonial rites of the Bread. In any case, Jesus upgrades our understanding of and insight into David’s situation: God’s law prioritised their need over blind obedience to the command, because the Law is designed for humanity’s benefit.

I hope that helps you. Please do send through your thoughts if you would like.

All the best,
Mike D.

(Kathleen) #11

Mike! Dear friend and brother! Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough replies. And may I add a question? :smirk:

I wanted to ask you a bit about women in ministry. That topic has been recently discussed on the forum and it has been asked of several of the female apologists as well at different times. But I wanted to ask you as a man who I know desires to see his sisters thrive in their respective callings: How would you encourage women who especially have the proclamation gifts of teaching and evangelising? In light of some of Paul’s writings, should they hesitate to exercise them?

(Stewart Andres) #12

Mike just a question about the Ark
How did the philistines take it without dieing.

(Michael Day) #13

Hi Kathleen,

So good to hear from you my friend and thanks for your question. I am not surprised to hear that this has come up on a number of occasions, it is certainly a sensitive issue that many churches and Christians are having to consider carefully and lovingly.

I have done my utmost to keep this short, but too be honest it was too difficult to stop myself from laying out as much of a coherent argument as possible. I hope you are able to make a cup of tea and work through this at your leisure :slight_smile:

A Point of Authority?

Let me start off by saying that in the evangelical complementarian/ egalitarian discussion, what is not up for debate is the authority of Scripture as the standard reference point for life and doctrine. In fact, in Zondervan’s “Counterpoints Series” Two Views of Women in Ministry (2nded., 2005) all four authors agreed to the following statement: “We believe one can build a credible case within the bounds of orthodoxy and a commitment to inerrancy for either one of the two major views we address in this volume, although all of us view our own positions on the matter as stronger and more compelling” (p. 15).

So it is not so much about Bible or no , but how to read the Bible. What interpretive, narrative and linguistic and contextual decisions are made with what is provided in Scripture. That is where this debate is located.

Is Context a Cop-Out?

A major bone of contention along these lines for most people is the question of context – how ought we to account for the first-century context in our reading of the NT?

I think it is essential to understand that, as eminent scholar Richard Hays points out, when we approach the NT canon, we are quite literally reading “somebody else’s mail.” More than this, we are reading it 2000 years removed. The ANE expert and biblical scholar John Walton says that while the Bible was written for us, it was not written to us. It is in my view inexcusable to appeal to context as a lazy dismissal of an opinion you don’t like, yet citing context is not a cop-out. In fact, it is the primary indicator that enables understanding of what the writings meant in their original context to the original recipients , so that we might rightly apply them to our context . This is a hermeneutical necessity. If this is not settled in the minds of those engaged in this discussion, moving forward is likely not achievable.

Zooming Out: The Big Picture

I think Amy Orr-Ewing in her writings and speaking has approached this in a helpful way: we could start our analysis by zooming out to get the big picture of God and then zooming in to the ministry of Jesus and NT texts. All of this will help us answer the question: how do men and women fit into God’s story? And, therefore, what respective roles are they given?

1. The Beginning: Creation

Of course, it is critical to go back to the beginning and see how things operated before things went wrong at the Fall. What was God’s original design, his blueprint for humanity?

In the first creation account of Genesis (ch 1):

  • God creates man and woman in his image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:27).
    · This is the language of ontological equality: men and women as co-image bearers .

  • God gives the creation/ Edenic mandate to both: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” (1:28).
    · This seems to be the language of functional equality: both are given the mandate to rule on God’s behalf in God’s world.
    · Here, we have men and women as co-labourers .

  • One argument given for original subordination of women is: Adam was created first and Eve later, so his primacy is an indication of his leadership significance/ role.
    · In the first creation account, however, the animals precede Adam; does this mean they are more significant? Moreover, the account seems to imply increased significance at each stage of creation (culminating in perfection and rest), which would put Eve as more significant as she is made later.
    · Gordon Fee notes: “no hint in the Genesis narrative that the sequence of their creation has theological meaning” ( Discovering Biblical Equality , p. 252).

In the second creation account of Genesis (ch 2):

  • None of the above is undermined, despite the attempts of some to argue to the contrary.

  • Another argument is to say that Eve was made from Adam’s side, and so she is ‘secondary’.
    · Again, John Walton’s analysis in The Lost World of Adam and Eve is crucial : “ontological equality is absolutely clear” in this text, he argues.

I think we come away from Genesis 1-2 with an overwhelming sense of a unity and equality of beings: both are called to bear God’s image and steward God’s world.

2. The End: New Creation

At the end of the Bible, in John’s apocalyptic vision, we see a vision of how things will go once all is put right. It is our trajectory as a church.

It is clear that men and women are together worshiping God, and together inheriting the reward of his presence and kingdom (e.g. 5:9-10; 7:9-10; 21:1-4).

  • Here, we have men and women as co-inheritors .

So, we see that at the beginning (before the Fall) and at the end (after the Fall has been fully resolved) men and women are co-image bearers , co-labourers and co-inheritors .

3. The Middle: Jesus and Women

So much for the beginning and the end, what about the middle part of Scripture? Do we see something different?

Well, Jesus is truly the full revelation of God that we have, as the author to the Hebrews has said (Heb 1:1-3), and to see him is to see the Father himself (Jn 14:9). So to look at his ministry, to consider how he treats and speaks to women especially is telling with regards what God would say to the place of women in his story.

i. Some of the most spectacular elements of Jesus’ ministry were witnessed/ reported by women.

  • His birth: the miraculous conception of Jesus is revealed first to Mary (Lk 1:26-38).

  • His death: After the disciples deserted Jesus, the women remained at the cross and saw his death (Mk 15:40; Mat 27:55-56; Jn 19:25).

  • His resurrection: the first to encounter the risen Jesus is Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9-11; Mat 28:1-9; Jn 20:11-18).
    · Thus, Mary is properly an ‘apostle’ (i.e. an eyewitness to the resurrection of Jesus and sent to proclaim its truth).

ii. Both men and women were his disciples

  • They followed him; and some women even provided financially for him (Lk 8:1-3).

  • Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet” (Lk 10:39).
    · The same words used of Saul wrt his relationship to Gamaliel: it is a formulation indicating a disciple learning from the master (Acts 22:3).
    · Mary was learning with the intention to teach , as was fitting of a trainee/ disciple.

iii. Both men and women were present at Pentecost

  • Luke records that the Eleven were “together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:12-14; cf. 2:1-4, 14-18).
    · They were all awaiting the fulfilment of Christ’s command re the Spirit (Acts 1:8).

  • I think it is most likely that the women were likewise baptised in the Spirit at Pentecost and compelled into the streets to proclaim the wonders of God.
    · This would also make sense of Peter’s quotation of Joel, which includes the Spirit being poured out on both men and women.

iv. Both men and women are filled, gifted and empowered by the Spirit

  • The apostle Peter here leads the way by quoting Joel and applying his prophecy to the Pentecost phenomena: “God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” (Acts 2:16-21; cf. Joel 2:28-32).

  • Whereas under the Old Covenant of Moses only men could receive the sign of the covenant on behalf of the family (circumcision), now in the New Covenant the Spirit is the seal or sign (of which both males and females bear).
    · It is Spirit-gifting that takes priority of place in the New Covenant people of God (see Gordon Fee, Discovering Biblical Equality, ch. 14).

v. Both men and women are active in speech and leadership roles in the early church.

  • While I will say a bit more about this below, it is clear that women also occupied various roles in the early church, for example:
  • · Prophet (e.g. Phillip’s four daughters in Acts 21:8-9).
  • · Instructor and active clarifier of God’s word (e.g. Priscilla in Acts 18:26).
  • · Deacon (e.g. Phoebe in the church at Rome, Romans 16:1).
  • · Apostle (e.g. Junia, Romans 16:7).
  • · Benefactor (e.g. Phoebe in Romans 16:1 and Joanna in Luke 8:3).
  • · Leader (e.g. Chloe in her house church, 1 Corinthians 1:11).
  • · Fellow worker with Paul (e.g. Euodia and Syntyche in Phil 4:3).

Zooming In: The Tricky Text(s)

Zooming out helps to get a big picture, one that is uniformly affirming of the place of men and women together in God’s story of creation and redemption. I am inclined to think many would be happy in principle with most (if not all) of what I have laid out so far. (Though I do not think we apply this position nearly so well in the practice of our relationships and church community). However, I think the real differences emerge when we discuss certain NT texts and their interpretation.

Linda Bellville has written extensively in this area and has noted that there are usually two texts referenced to advocate for the restrictive interpretation, i.e. 1 Cor 14:33-34 and 1 Timothy 2:8-15. However, as she and others recognise: “1 Timothy 2:8-15… is the only passage in the entire Bible explicitly forbidding or limiting women’s teaching role” (CraigKeener, Paul, Women and Wives , pp. 17-18; cf. Bellville, Discovering Biblical Equality, ch. 12).

Let’s be clear: there are different words to indicate many different speech acts in the NT: teaching, exhorting, prophesying, evangelising, reading etc. The only speech act that seems to be explicitly restricted to men is ‘teaching’. Further, as John Dickson notes in his book Hearing Her Voice , whatever 1 Tim 2 means, it is “not forbidding women to speak God’s truth to men in all circumstances” (Dickson, 2012; p. 10). The word didasko (teach) in 1 Tim 2 is not Paul’s catch-all phrase for ‘speech act,’ otherwise it would directly contradict his other statements regarding women prophesying and praying etc. (e.g. 1 Cor 11).

In fact, Dickson makes an interesting argument in this book: ‘teach’ is a specialised gift, he says, related solely to “preserving and laying down the traditions handed on by the apostles” (p. 3). However, seeing as the Bible has codified this oral apostolic tradition, there is nothing akin to teaching today as it was meant in the apostolic era (see Dickson, esp. pp. 48-52). Even if one doesn’t follow Dickson’s argument through to its conclusion,at the very least, even if a conservative view is taken of the texts, there are many acts clearly open to men and women in a ministry capacity.

On this point and in my opinion, we as church must do a lot better with encouraging our sisters in Christ to participate in Bible/ doctrine-related conversations, church meetings and Sunday gatherings… a lot better. Our churches will be worse off if dominated by male voices and perspectives. Women must feel empowered in their families, vocations and churches to identify, develop and deploy their gifts, with the help of their community and the witness of the Spirit. As must men.

Back to 1 Timothy 2…

Does it restrict this particular speech act or not? Is it only men given to public authoritative proclamation of the Gospel?

  • This is where context comes into the equation again: into what situation is Paul writing and what did he mean?
  • · This section of 1 Timothy 2 is about instructions in prayer/ worship: first to the men (2:8) and then a longer section to the women (2:9-15). The section to the women is longer, because they at the time of writing were apparently causing greater disturbance. Paul provides two categories of exhortation to the women in his response: (1) concerning dress codes and (2) concerning teaching (see Keener, Paul, Women and Wives , pp. 102, 107-13).
    • o Of the second, the ‘silence’ (2:11) Paul enjoins has more to do with a quiet disposition appropriate for a novice whilst learning than it does a universal injunction to silence all women in all churches (would that not contradict flatly his instructions in 1 Cor 11:4-5?). It is to this same quiet disposition the whole church is called to in 1 Tim 2:2, which leads us to believe Paul is speaking of an attitude, not a muzzling.
    • o The word ‘authority’ in 2:12 comes from the Greek authenteo , which lexicographers argue carries the meaning of ‘to dominate’ (see standard academic lexicons BDAG, Thayer’s and Liddell-Scott for a consensus on this).
      • § The issue here is not ‘authority’ in the sense of delegated mandate to speak, but the manner in which speaking is undertaken: domineering.
      • § Belleville argues for a better way to understand this verse: “I do not permit a woman to teach so as to gain mastery over a man” or “I do not permit a woman to teach with a view to dominating a man” ( Discovering Biblical Equality , p. 219).
    • o The best way to read 2:13-14 is as an analogy. Since much of the false teaching at Ephesus was spread through the women in the congregation (1 Tim 5:13; 2 Tim 3:6-7), Paul draws an analogy between the easily deceived Eve and the easily deceived women in the Ephesian church (cf. 2 Cor 11:3; Keener, p. 117).
  • We must remember: Paul is writing about women in this particular context, so we should not universalise what he has particularised.

  • My current conviction remains in the direction that what Paul wrote in 1 Timothy does not exclude women from public authoritative proclamation gifts.

  • · So I follow Keener’s conclusion: “If Paul does not want the women to teach in some sense, it is not because they are women, but because they are unlearned. His principle here is that those who do not understand the Scriptures and are not able to teach them accurately should not be permitted to teach others ” (p. 119, bold mine).
  • · Accordingly, women ought to be encouraged to seek the Spirit’s leading in the gifts they have been given, including proclamation gifts, to the glory of God.


This is a stupendously long response, so let me summarise:

  • (1) An essential hermeneutic principle is to engage the cultural context of NT writings to consider authorial intention and meaning.
  • (2) The arc of Scripture, in which we see God’s blueprint for male/ female dynamics, points to equality in ontology, vocation and inheritance. (Of course, we are not saying men and women are the same – equality does not equal sameness .)
  • (3) Jesus radically dignified women in a male-centric culture; they played a crucial role in the Gospels and early church as disciples, leaders, missionaries, prophets, apostles, benefactors etc.
  • (4) The one text that seems explicitly to deny women authority to proclaim the Gospel turns out to encourage a learning process that enables unlearned women in the Ephesian community to perform that very act.

Books for further consultation:

(1) Amy Orr-Ewing, Why Trust the Bible? (IVP, 2006)

(2) Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1992).

(3) John Dickson, Hearing Her Voice: A Case for Women Giving Sermons (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012).

(4) John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Editors), Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Biblical Feminism (Illinois: Crossway, 1991).

(5) Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (Editors), Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy (Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, Second Edition, 2005).

(6) Zondervan “Counterpoints Series”, Two Views of Women in Ministry (2nded., 2005).

Can a woman be a Pastor or a preacher?
Resources for Studying Women In Ministry
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(Bill Brander) #14

Wow. Thank you Mike. Thank you

(Carson Weitnauer) closed #15

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