This is a response to an article by William Einwechter,
“Should Christians Support a Woman for the Office of Civil Magistrate?”, currently being circulated by email and on the Internet. Many who are sending this to friends are conscientious Christians who are concerned about whether they should support the McCain/Palin ticket in light of Biblical truth.
While the article in question wasn’t written with this in mind, it is currently being used by some to discourage well meaning Christians from supporting Sarah Palin for Vice President.
My response is also not specifically written to condone or support the Palin selection, but rather to address whether there is really a Biblical injunction against women holding public office in general.
The writer starts off well by asserting:
“Mere human opinion or reason is not sufficient for the Christian. The Word of God is the only infallible, authoritative standard for directing us into the paths of righteousness.”
I am in total agreement with that statement, however it is my contention that Mr. Einwechter ends up doing the very thing that he says that he opposes. His article is full of “mere human opinion or reason” given under the label of Biblical teaching and interpretation. Therefore, I won’t really deal with most of his arguments, I will look primarily at the Biblical references he cites and see what they actually say and teach ‘in context’.
1. Section One: “The Biblical Doctrine of the Headship of Man Disqualifies a Woman for Civil Office”?
Read these scriptures and underline the text that specifically says that women are disqualified for civil office. Did you find it? I sure didn’t!
I Tim. 2: 11-14 does say that Paul (“I”) will not allow women to teach or be in authority in those churches under his care. Later in chapter 3 when he talks about choosing Bishops and Deacons he only mentions men and women are only mentioned as ‘wives’—at least in English. The original Greek in I Tim. 3:11 literally says: “It behooves women similarly (to be) grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.” Most believe that this is referring to wives of Deacons and most translations reflect that meaning though the word ‘wives’ is not in the original text. However, some contend that the verse is really the requirements for deaconesses.
Does this mean that women are disqualified to be in the ministry? Many would say yes, but the New Testament scriptures are full of examples of women serving as teachers, deaconesses, prophetesses, and some even hold that the original Greek in Rom. 16:7 may indicate that Junia (fem.) was among the apostles. I will say this however, I believe that a good Biblical case can be made for men serving as head pastors.
Note: Paul himself mentions Priscilla first before her husband Aquila in 2 Tim 4:19, in Rom. 16:3 he calls them both “fellow workers”—also, according to Acts 18:26, both were involved in teaching Apollos—a man. Paul also mentions Phoebe in Rom. 16:1 and asks the church to assist her in her ministry—in the original Greek it literally says: “…Phoebe the sister of us, being also a ‘diakonon’ (deaconess) in the church….”.
Now let’s turn to the final reference in section 1: Exodus 18:21. This scripture merely cites the advice of Jethro to pick out good men to be Judges—where does it mention women one way or the other? Besides, you wonder if this choice was all that inspired since later these same leaders voted not to go into the ‘promise land’ and then much later evolved into the Sanhedrin which ended up judging Jesus.
These scriptures may teach a proper alignment and honor in the home and in the church. However, if you take William Einwechter’s interpretation to its logical conclusion, only Christ is really qualified to rule and hold office being head over all—even men would be disqualified if we use the scriptures in the way that he proposes.
2. Section Two: “The Biblical Qualifications for Civil Office Require Civil Leaders to be Men.”?
If you read all of the scriptures cited in this section, is there one which specifically states in context that a woman cannot or should not hold a civil office?—No!
Following Deut. 17:14-20, he states: “Clearly, a man is in view here. The law of God commands us, therefore, to choose men to be our rulers!” No! In context the scripture is talking specifically to the nation of Israel in the day and generation that they settle in the ‘promise land’ and nothing more.
Then he runs a string of scriptures past us (2 Sam. 23:3; Neh. 7:2; Prov. 16:10; 20:8, 28; 29:14; 31:4-5; Rom. 13:1-6; etc.) that only prove that men were chosen for positions of civil authority in those historical generations and teaches and says nothing specifically to us today as a guiding principle. Read them all—these passages only show us that men were chosen for positions of authority in the past and say nothing about whether women can or should be chosen in the future.
The scriptures cited in this section merely support the cultural reality that men were normally chosen for positions of authority in ancient times. Women were chattel at the time and rarely educated or prepared in any way for public service.
3. Section Three: “The Biblical Picture of a Virtuous Woman is Against a Woman Holding Civil Office.”?
The author gives us the following scriptures which speak about the ideal ‘virtuous’ woman: Prov. 31:10-31, 1 Tim. 2:15; 5:10, 14; and Titus 2:3-5. Managing the household and raising children are the main responsibilities listed here. But also reaching out to the poor in the community and helping the less fortunate are also listed as duties of the ‘virtuous’ woman.
Again, there is no Biblical injunction in these scriptures against women holding civil offices. One could also come up with a number of scriptures listing the family duties of a ‘righteous’ husband and father—but no one would consider that those passages imply that a man has no business assuming a public position.
Interestingly, while Prov. 31:10-31 was written in a different time and economy, many women did in fact rule over some men (slaves) in conducting their household affairs. Verses 16-18 & 24 (Prov. 31:16-18, 24) could be used as support for woman running businesses in the present economy. Also, in verse 20 (Prov. 31:20), reaching out to the poor in today’s economy could imply service in the community that might result in civil office.
Women today still bear the major responsibility for most households, yet with all the modern conveniences they are not totally consumed in the process. Rather, they have far more time to spend in church and community service than in Biblical times when they made all their own clothes, baked their own bread, fed the livestock, processed all of their own food, and even made their own pots and candles, and etc.
4. Section four: “The Biblical Lament that “Women Rule over Them” Confirms the error of a Woman Holding Civil Office.” ?
Isaiah 3:12 is the major text given in section four. One can readily see that this as a curse imposed upon Israel. Did the nation of Israel vote to have Woman and Children in authority over them? No, in context this is the result of most of the nation being in some sort of servitude. The elders and leaders of Israel did not lead the nation toward righteousness but into judgment.
Verses 10 & 11 (Is. 3:10-11) provide the context. The righteous will be blessed of God and live to enjoy the fruits of their labors, while the wicked will face economic disaster which in that economy resulted in servitude—with the children and wives of their masters ruling over them.
Again, in context, this passage says nothing about whether women should hold public offices or not.
5. Section Five: “The Biblical Account of Deborah Does Not Imply that Women Should Hold Civil Office.”?
I agree with Mr. Einwechter, the story of Deborah doesn’t necessarily support the idea that women belong in public office but it certainly doesn’t provide an injunction or example against it either. William protests way too much!
In the time of the Judges, God himself was the real King and ruler over Israel. While there continued to be tribal elders and the Sanhedrin still had some authority when they could agree, Israel was officially a theocracy with God himself in charge. He appointed by anointing ‘Judges’ with special power in each generation to rule in his name. Over time, the people recognized and respected those who received the power of the Lord to rule.
Deborah was a Judge in Israel whether it fits into Elder Einwechter’s interpretation or not. It is also clear that the choice of Deborah, in the context of ancient Near Eastern culture, was an embarrassment and a statement against the spiritual condition of all the men and leaders of Israel.
Mr. Einwechter concludes with the following: “In view of the biblical evidence presented above, it can be concluded that women ought not to be civil leaders; only men have been called of God to exercise rule in the civil sphere.” Then he ends by implying that God’s judgment will be upon us if we choose women to serve in public office.
Where is the so-called Biblical evidence he speaks of? Where is even one specific Biblical injunction against women holding public office?
The scriptures do teach a proper alignment and honor in the home and in the church. However again, if you take Elder Einwechter’s interpretation to its logical conclusion, only Christ is really qualified to rule and hold office being head over all—even men would be disqualified if we use the scriptures in the way that he proposes. After all, men might be the head over women but Christ is the head over men and everyone.
I believe that Mr. Einwechter’s article is filled with conjecture given under the label of Biblical teaching— but in final analysis, little more than private interpretation and “mere human opinion or reason” after all.
In closing I will say this, William Einwechter and I may disagree on this one issue, however as brothers in Christ we are undoubtedly in agreement on far more issues than not, particularly on those that have everlasting significance.
Michael G. Davis, D.Min.