John Piper: Should a Woman Preach Next Sunday?

(PHOTO: SCREEN GRAB VIA VIMEO/DESIRINGGOD.ORG) Theologian, John Piper.
(PHOTO: SCREEN GRAB VIA VIMEO/DESIRINGGOD.ORG)
Theologian, John Piper.

Why do Andrew Wilson (here and here) and Tom Schreiner (here) and John Piper (here) take their valuable time to write about their differences over secondary matters, when they enjoy such enormous agreement on glorious things that are more important? The most immediate answer is: because we have to decide who’s preaching next Sunday. Our attention to this issue is because we have no choice.

In other words, unlike secondary issues such as eschatological differences, the present issue simply can’t be avoided for pastors. It’s the kind of issue that immediately affects what you do in worship. And it’s the kind of issue where doing it both ways is not an option. If women are called on to preach, we are doing it Andrew’s way. If they are not called on to preach, we are doing it Tom’s and my way. We can’t have it both ways.

I wish there were no issues like this. The implications for working on the same church staff are limiting. And that is sad. Of course, there are dozens of other things we can do together, but keeping a good conscience while working on the same church leadership team would be tough.

To put it another way, the reason pastors argue about these things is because we love our people and want to do what’s best for them. That is a really good thing; but it sometimes has awkward consequences.

The Root Difference?

So here is my little contribution to the exchange between Andrew and Tom.

My main question is: What is really the root difference between Andrew and me on this issue? In spite of the exchange so far, I’m not sure. It seems I may come at the issue slightly differently. Let’s see.

Andrew sees more than one kind of teaching in the New Testament, and one of those in particular is to be done by (all male) elders (1 Timothy 2:12), while the others are not restricted. The definition of the prohibited kind of teaching seems to be: “the definition, defense, and preservation of Christian doctrine, by the church’s accredited leaders.”

The definition of the unrestricted kind seems to be: “a catch-all term for talking about the Bible in a church meeting.” Or: “explaining the Scriptures to each other in a peer-to-peer way, according to gift.”

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SOURCE: Desiring God
John Piper