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Friday, January 26, 2007

Contrary to Nature

It is generally accorded that females score somewhat higher at a young age in verbal intelligence than males, and males score higher on visual spatial tasks such as rotations. This is one of the least contested aspects of the difference between cognitive functioning in males and females.* For those who base their theology on the difference between men and women, these differences must be conceded.

Susan Hunt writes,

So how is it that women are not allowed to teach men languages? The Southern Baptist Convention, which believes in the difference between men and women, does not allow a woman to teach a man biblical languages. Are they not going contrary to nature? Women should be 'helpers' - but not in the area of biblical languages.

Note the distinctions and boundaries. A woman may teach a teenager Greek and Hebrew. (IMO that is the optimum time to learn these languages.) A woman may teach a man French or German. A woman may teach a man grammar and composition. A woman may teach a non-Christian man Greek or Hebrew. A woman may teach the biblical languages if she does so in a secular university. A woman may teach a man Greek or Hebrew if the text being studied is not the Bible. A woman may write about Greek and Hebrew. A woman may be quoted by a man on Greek and Hebrew. A woman may teach a man Greek and Hebrew if she does so in another country, not her own.

May a woman blog about the biblical languages. May a man read a blog written by a woman on biblical languages? They say blogging is nearer to spoken discourse than published articles. It is getting dicey indeed!

What I wonder is how God keeps all these rules straight. I ask myself if God has ordered one of those books which contains 'the list' from I imagine him sitting there adjusting his bifocals, scanning the list, searching for the cutoff point. Like others he gets to decide for himself where the cutoff point is. He is not discriminated against. As long as there is a cutoff point. As long as women get cut off, then the authors of the list are satisfied.

I have been asked to write about Sheri Klouda, removed from her employment for teaching biblical languages to men. Let me supply the relevant background articles.

Wade Burleson has posted on her situation.

Sheri Klouda: Gender Discrimination, Federal Law and the Law of Christ in the SBC and SWBTS
The Strange Belief that a Woman Cannot Teach a Man the Bible
The Sheri Klouda Issue Will Not Go Away Quietly
The Information Begins to Trickle In From SWBTS
A Knowledge of Our History Keeps Us Humble

The Dallas Morning News wrote about it here.

Briefly, this is the case of an exemplary Hebrew professor losing her position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, under president Paige Patterson, because she is a woman. Dr. Klouda is the sole provider for her family and had bought a house near the seminary.

According to this article there are no women teaching theology or Biblical languages at a Southern Baptist Convention seminary. There is one woman at Dallas Seminary teaching Hebrew. This issue is under discussion at Dallas, which, in general, has very few female professors.

But 100 years ago the seminaries were still integrated with the universities. And women were beginning to teach in the universities. One of the first women to teach Greek in Canada in the university to adult men was herself a Christian married to a Plymouth Brethren preacher, and in his old age she supported him - she taught Greek to men and no one fired her. So in Canada Christian women were not followers in feminism, Christian women were leaders in promoting the participation of women in higher education. Christian women were ahead of the curve, not accomodaters to the world.

I believe that it is this present day discouragement and outright prohibition that prevents more women from making a career of biblical languages and therefore participating in Bible translation teams. There is a deliberate bias against women contributing to Bible translation in the conservative Christian community.

This is a request post.

* Personally I think this is mostly bunk but I don't want to clutter the blog with my off topic meanderings.


At Sat Jan 27, 02:31:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I note that, at least according to a woman Bible teacher in a complementarian church (Wendy's comment on this post) a man can listen to a podcast of a woman teaching the Bible to women, so presumably the same applies to Greek and Hebrew. I guess what applies to recorded materials also applies to written materials, and the prohibition on teaching applies only to face-to-face interactions. But I wonder what the biblical justification is for this distinction, and I wonder if complementarians are consistent on this point.

At Sat Jan 27, 06:31:00 AM, Blogger Jeremy Pierce said...

Whether complementarians are consistent on any of this is going to be a very case-by-case thing. I happen to think this is already inconsistent with complementarianism, because it doesn't involve the teaching of scripture in the local church as overseen by the elders of that local body. There may well be borderline cases when it's hard to determine if something counts as that, but I don't see how this is either a clear or borderline case of it. It's not teaching scripture at all.

Now Paige Patterson's complementarian view is not the one I see in scripture, but according to that view (and the one Piper and Grudem seem to endorse in their introduction to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), this does turn out to be a problem. They seem to think it's wrong to put a woman in authority over men. That's consistent with thinking it's not wrong for men to submit to women in authority over them (after all, it's wrong to usurp political authority in many cases, but Romans 13 still tells us to submit to such usurpers). So I don't see how it would be wrong for men to listen to MP3s of women Bible teachers, even on the Patterson/Piper/Grudem view. All that would be wrong is putting a woman in the position where she does that.

[And I'm not sure whether she does anything wrong either, because the only passages that say anything at all about not allowing women to teach are about not allowing them to teach (which is about what those over them do), not about whether it's wrong for them to teach (which is about what they do). But this distinction isn't one I see anyone making. I just think it's a consistent view to think that it's wrong to have women teaching men while not thinking it's wrong for women to teach men.]

One consideration that might support the in-person/on-a-recording distinction is that when someone records words to be played back or writes them to be read later on, there's no sense that someone is directly telling you something. When someone is sitting at the front of a classroom presenting information, I think most people take it as an authoritative relationship. If women shouldn't be having any authority over men, as I think Patterson's view has it, then that seems a much more clear violation than if someone just records MP3 as content for people to listen to without the person actually being in the authoritative relationship. This distinction does get undermined a good deal, however, if the woman who recorded the MP3s (or any other woman) is also grading the students. Isn't that a more significant difference than merely whether it's recorded or live?

All this goes to show that there really are lots of different ways of working out complementarian views on the details, and just seeing something that's inconsistent on a very simplistic complementarian view doesn't mean it's a real inconsistency, depending on what actual view is at work. Paige Patterson isn't stupid, even if this particular view of his is wrong (and I think it is even though I think complementarianism is correct). He may well have worked out a more nuanced view than the one people are attributing to him. Maybe he hasn't, but I suspect he has the intellectual ability to do so, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt in terms of consistency even if I think his position is more extreme than what I think the biblical view is.

At Sat Jan 27, 06:36:00 AM, Blogger Jim Swindle said...

Here's a thought from this (barely) Southern Baptist complementarian. The Lord looks at the hearts of women (and men, too). If a woman teaches men Biblical languages to prove that a woman can do it, she's probably sinning. If she does it to enable the men to be better preachers and teachers for God's glory, then she's honoring the Lord.

I was once pastor of a church (not Southern Baptist) that was formerly pastored by a woman. She was still in the congregation, and was a blessing. She wasn't trying to prove anything about women. She didn't need to. She just lived the Christian life. She wasn't hungry for power. She was hungry for the Lord's glory.

At Sat Jan 27, 10:44:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne E. McCarthy said...

So I don't see how it would be wrong for men to listen to MP3s of women Bible teachers,

So God is good wth women being listened to on an mp3 player but not having the woman speak at the front of the room if men are in the audience?

God has different laws for the age of technology. Complementarians have to be very nuanced and intelligent people to figure out their stance on Christian life every time a new piece of technology turns up. Thank goodness I am not committed to that.

At Sat Jan 27, 11:42:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne E. McCarthy said...


Doesn't exactly the same standard apply to men? I fail to see the difference between men and women on this one.

A man should not teach a Biblical language just to prove that a man can do it.

And it takes years of study and dedication, a real love of lgs. to get to that level. I cannot see a woman doing that just to prove something about women. A woman learns a language for a host of reasons but not to prove that a woman can do it! I just cannot see that.

At Sat Jan 27, 01:26:00 PM, Blogger Trierr said...

As you mention "the list" of what can and can not be done by women in complementarian circles, F.F. Bruce's comments come to mind:

Where the writings of Paul are concerned, however, a reliable rule of
thumb is suggested by his passionate emphasis on freedom—true freedom by contrast with spiritual bondage on the one hand and moral licence on the other. Here it is: Whatever in Paul’s teaching promotes true freedom is of universal and permanent validity; whatever seems to impose restrictions on true freedon has regard to local and temporary conditions.

Followed by:

It is unsatisfactory to rest with a halfway house in this issue of women’s ministry, where they are allowed to pray and prophesy, but not to teach or lead.

Women in the Church: A Biblical survey F. F. Bruce

Bruce basically says that if we have to resort to "laws" in order to understand Paul, than we have errored. And it is clear that "the list" is an exercise in legalistic hair-splitting and is not at all the kind of freedom that Paul risked his very life to preach.

The pastor of the church I attend is on the board of SWBTS and is a personal friend of Paige Patterson. I am tempted to ask him about this situation, although I suspect that he can not talk about personnel issues. I know that he himself does not permit women to teach adult sunday school with men. (Although I have taken a precepts class from a gifted female teacher there.)

At Sat Jan 27, 02:37:00 PM, Blogger BlindBeggar said...

Not here to defend Southern Baptist (I'm not one either), but you stated in your post "The Southern Baptist Convention, which believes in the difference between men and women, does not allow a woman to teach a man biblical languages" (my emphasis).

Paige Patterson is one person at one SBC Seminary. That hardly represents a position that you can then put on the entire SBC. I believe you should be more careful in your characterizations.

At Sat Jan 27, 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Jeremy wrote: "So I don't see how it would be wrong for men to listen to MP3s of women Bible teachers, even on the Patterson/Piper/Grudem view. All that would be wrong is putting a woman in the position where she does that."

Note that Wendy told me that it was OK for me to listen to her podcasts, and the Mars Hill church webmaster put them on the website without instructions that they were for women only. That is logically a different issue from for example me listening to a clandestinely made recording of a woman teaching women, which might be wrong because it is clandestine but cannot be condemned from 1 Timothy 2:12.

It seems to me actually that part of the confusion here is the argument that speaking to someone implies having authority over them. I suppose it is many years since I considered anyone teaching me to have authority over me by virtue of that (I accept that my pastor has authority over me, but not especially so when he is preaching). What they say is something which I judge; I have authority over their words and not vice versa. But maybe pastors would not concede that they don't have authority over their congregations when they preach.

I accept that Paige Patterson's position may be more consistent than he has been given credit for. But in that case either it changed between when he was first appointed and assured Sheri Klouda that she could continue to teach and a couple of years later when he fired her, or else he was being "economical with the truth" in the assurances that he made.

At Sat Jan 27, 04:50:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Blind Beggar,

This is what I was going on,

"I do not know of any women teaching in any of the SBC seminaries presently in the area of theology or biblical languages," Dr. McClain said.

from the Dallas Morning News.

At Sat Jan 27, 08:46:00 PM, Blogger Jim Swindle said...

This is in response to Suzanne's earlier comment on my comment. Yes, the same principles would apply to a man. However, my best (current) understanding is that God designed things in such a way that men should lead the church. Yet that is not the essence of Christianity.

I in no way fault a woman for doing things that men should be doing, but aren't.

I also do not see that teaching Greek or Hebrew is the kind of teaching that Paul would have kept women from doing. Teaching Greek is not the same as being a spiritual authority.

Still, I was uneasy to read lately that the head of one fine seminary is a woman. I don't fault her. I just suspect that the Lord wanted a man for the job, but that the man was unwilling.

If I'm wrong, I'll find out later (here or in the hereafter). Either way, I rejoice when the Lord uses the Bible to bring people to true faith or to deeper faith in himself, whether the messenger is male or female.

PS--Suzanne, I studied Greek and Hebrew, but am in no way the depth of language scholar that you are. I'm sure I could learn a lot about languages if I were in a class taught by someone like you.

At Sat Jan 27, 10:42:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

After extensive study of 1 Timothy 2:12 I now realize its true meaning: Women should not edit Bible commentaries unless they are faculty members at Baptist seminaries where, coincidentally, they are also married to the seminary president. Now, that's academic integrity!

At Sun Jan 28, 12:00:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


It is very sad to think that a woman might attribute an opportunity to participate in an academic forum to the failure of a man to do the job. Where is the companionship in that?

Can you imagine a woman praying "Please Lord, let the man called to do this work be unwilling." Or conversely, as Anon points out "Please Lord, may this man I have married become president of an institution and thereby allocate privileges my way." Ugh! It all puts woman in a very unpleasant position.

Don't forget that without a job in academia, it is very hard to have the time and encouragement to produce research and publish. It is not just the teaching part, but the scholarly resources which are denied to women.

BTW, are you thinking of Roberta Hestenes?

At Sun Jan 28, 09:52:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

He's thinking of Molly Marshall.

At Sun Jan 28, 11:20:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks, Anon.

At Sun Jan 28, 03:49:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Anon, while I see the irony of Mrs Patterson and Mrs Kelley being allowed to teach the Bible when Mrs Klouda was not allowed even to teach Hebrew, the Pattersons can be rescued from a charge of lack of integrity hypocrisy, or Mrs Patterson from gross lack of submission to her husband(!), by this which she and Mrs Kelley wrote about the commentary: "this particular resource, without apology, is prepared primarily for women to use". It will of course be interesting to see if Lifeway refuses to sell this book to men.

At Tue Jan 30, 12:00:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

I would have thought that the use by the first ladies of SWBTS and NOBTS of primarily rather than solely (or simply omitting the adverb) suggests a secondary market. Now, besides women, what other people could possibly read this book? Girls? Dolphins? Artificial intelligences? Extraterrestrials?

At Tue Jan 30, 09:33:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Dolphins read? Dolphins read commentaries??

At Tue Jan 30, 10:15:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Anon, an interesting thought. I suggest you ask the ladies concerned if they consider men to be their secondary market. Or perhaps boys under that age when they are suddenly not allowed to be taught by women.

At Tue Jan 30, 11:18:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

Dolphins read?

Why do you think they print waterproof bibles (and in giant single sheets at that, that don't require the reader to turn pages)?

Dolphins read commentaries??

Why do you think they named the Anchor Bible Commentary?

Please let me know if I can be of any further zoological assistance.

At Tue Jan 30, 12:37:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Ah, now I am starting to understand all those references to "divers" in KJV. Someone told me it actually means "diverse", but I don't suppose they knew what they were talking about.

At Tue Jan 30, 09:16:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

And water is a medium which magnifies print. So - guess what - no pesky bifocals for dolphins and divers when they want to read those commentaries.

Please let me know if I can be of any further zoological assistance.

Medical and zoological - my, my, you must be a renaissance man, Anon. Oh, I remember now, you are the very model of a modern MG. That explains it.

At Thu Feb 01, 07:28:00 AM, Blogger Priscilla's Daughter said...

Thank you for this post, Suzanne. As a long-time fan of this blog, I was hoping you would comment on this controversy. I hope this doesn't sound offensive, but honestly, I find this whole thing rather amusing. I have had a passion for languages since I was a child, and most of the language teachers I have had were women. Most of my language classes also had plenty of boys in them. So it's ok for a woman to teach languages, so long as it's not a biblical language? What if one of those men in my Russian or Spanish classes went on to read the Bible in Russian or Spanish? Would my teacher have been helping them study the Bible because they used the knowledge that she taught them to read it? What if a boy learns Latin from a woman teacher and then goes on to read the Vulgate? Would we say that his teacher was retroactively sinning? Somewhere somebody mentioned an age limit. I studied Greek when I was a teenager. Now, what if I had been a boy learning from a woman teacher? Would that have been ok? At what age would it become not ok for me (as a boy) to learn Greek from a woman?

I also loved your comments about technology, Suzanne. Here in Britain they now have cell phones that show video as well play music and podcasts. So is it ok for a man to watch a video of a woman teaching the Bible, as long as she's not directly addressing him?

And that brings me to my last point, the one you addressed Peter, about speakers having authority. When a comp. says that women teaching men have authority over them, surely they can't mean that the words she speaks are binding on the listeners. The Bible says that we are supposed to test and approve everything we hear, no matter who says it. In the book of Acts, Luke specifically commends the Berean church for not accepting everything that the apostles taught them, but searching the scriptures to see if what they were being taught lined up with the rest of God's Word. Here's a good modern example: right now a "health and wealth" televangelist is trying to build a mega-church in London. Are his teachings authoritativly binding on the men in his congregation? I would love to hear a comp. explain exactly what is meant by women having authority.

At Thu Feb 01, 07:05:00 PM, Blogger Jim Swindle said...

Sorry to be slow getting back to leave a response. No, I wasn't thinking of Roberta Hestenes (whom I'd forgotten), nor of Molly Marshall (whom I'd not heard of). But I suppose it doesn't matter which woman I was thinking of.

I don't pretend to be a deep scholar on this subject. As to the women praying that men will send some responsibility their way, I think complementarian churches and institutions often do ignore the gifts of women, which is sad. However, I don't think a woman would have to pray in the way described. She could simply ask that the Lord open doors for her to use her gifts fully.

Personally, I am a bit conflicted: I see some women in the church, such as Henrietta Mears and Kay Arthur, who have been or who are clearly gifted teachers, and who appear to have taught many men very well, with a godly, humble attitude. At the same time, I see the scripture's argument from creation, not culture, as to the roles of men and women in the church (1 Tim 2:11-15). I believe it's hazardous to say of any Bible passage, "I don't know what it means, but I know that it doesn't mean what it says." I suspect that many people approach this passage in that unhealthy way. That's part of our sinful nature. Such an attitude is by no means limited to the subject of women's roles; no matter what our theology, we tend to do that when a passage challenges our belief system.

Thus, this is one of those passages where I affirm what it says, even though I'm not completely comfortable with it.

May the Lord lead us deeper into humility, into truth, and into knowing him. As that happens, surely we'll move closer to one another.

PS--In my daily job (in the business world) I've been supervised by a woman for several years. She's a magnificent boss. I'm thankful to be under her.


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