R.C. Sproul on Ordination of Women as Pastors/Elders


Ask R.C. Live 2011

Caller, “Hi I have my question is what the biblical teaching concerning women preachers, and women pastors? I listen in the sacramental area thanks.”

R.C. Sproul (Founder and Chairman of Ligonier Ministries), “Again this is a question that has torn churches apart over the last fifty years, for the last two thousand years it has been almost unheard of to have ordained women in the churches although not completely unheard of, and the reasons for that have to do with the concerns set forth in The New Testament. There are various things that are said with respect to the function and practice of women in the church from The New Testament church perspective. But the one that is most critical is the in passage in Timothy where Paul says he will not allow to have authority authentae. Now that is the passage that has been most relevant to debates about women’s ordination and part of the problem with that frankly is that different churches have different views of what ordination conveys. Now in the church where I am involved the ordination action itself communicates or conveys juridical or governing authority to whomever receives that ordination and since where Paul explicitly disallows women to have that at least some kind of authority and presumably their juridical authority our church does not ordain women.

However there are other churches other communions where ordination is to service and does not communicate necessarily governing authority and so in those communities they have women ordained or set apart and consecrated to missional tasks or you know matters of service that are not given at the same time governing authority and that is part of the complication of this.

Still there is a third portion here where there are lots of people who believe that the Bible is the Word of God. I mean there are people who just dismiss the Bible dismiss Paul and they don’t care what the Bible says about this question they do what they want. But those who are earnestly trying to be submissive sacred scripture some of them argue and are convinced that Paul’s statements in Timothy regarding the limitation of the role of women in the church are based up societal custom and not on the basis of principle and so that was the case in the first century we are not in the culture anymore and so that particular teaching by the apostle is no longer binding upon the church. I have a problem with that because when Paul gives his rational for limiting the activity of women there in the church he does it in the context of church structure and he appeals to creation for the justification for limiting a woman in this regard and if there is anything that transcends local custom and contemporary culture it those things rooted and grounded in creation.

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Ask R.C. Live 2010
R.C. Sproul Jr. (Ligonier Ministries Teaching Fellow),
“Dave asks this question he says wants to know how do I respond to a female friend jilted by a Christianity that says she cannot have leadership over men or preach from the pulpit. I know back in the days of that living room you were very actively involved in discussions on ordination of women so I am confident you will have wisdom here.

R.C. Sproul (Founder and Chairman of Ligonier Ministries),
“Well the question of ordination of women in the church is not as simple as a lot of people think it is for this reason ordination means different things in different Christian communions. Now what I find in the minimalist position at the very least that the apostle Paul prohibits women from having in The New Testament is authentae which I understand to be government or juridical authority. Now if you have a church where ordination automatically confers governing authority in the church then I would say according to Paul’s teaching in Timothy that is not allowed.

Okay, but there are other churches where women are involved in ministry and acting very much involved in the life of the church and even in positions of leadership where they are under the governing authority like a session made up of men and so that is why I say it is not simple to answer that question because it depends on the ecclesiastical structure in which it takes place. But whatever you come out with on that this does not mean that as a woman you are not able to be profoundly involved in the work of the ministry of Jesus Christ in the church in a thousand different ways. What I see that you not allowed to do is govern. I don’t think that it is a I remember when Dr. Grishna was teaching in seminary there they had a woman professor come teaching systematic theology and Dr. Grishna was on the faculty committee of seniority that would vote on various professors status of tenure and when this particular woman tenure hearing came up Dr. Grishna voted against her and the press got a hold of it and they interviewed him and they said, “why did you vote against this woman simply because she was a woman?” and Dr. Grishna said, “I didn’t vote against her because she is a woman, I voted against her because she is a heretic,” and he even took the position as conservative as he was that a woman has the ability and authority to be a seminary professor and I would agree with that. But I think I am taking as broad a position and as liberal position on that as that as you can take and still be faithful to the authority of scripture.

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