“Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word?” That remarkable question by the Rev. John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrims, reminds us that there are depths to Scripture which we have yet to plumb. I can remember when I was working on the problem of how Sandy Creek Baptists could have “Eldresses”, that I begin to become aware of the fact that in our study of the issues of biblical interpretation we lacked a method that was truly synthetical, that is one that could take in a two-sided truth, one that could enable students to be able to give full faith and credit to the profound two-sidedness of Holy Writ.
In any case, there were texts in the Old and New Testament which actually presented men and women as equals, and the difficulties have to do with how we handle negative comments one way or the other. For example, the comment in I Cors. 14 concerning women not being permitted to speak is in the context of a man speaking in tongues without an interpreter, and the same language is used. Obviously, this does suggest that the negative precept has a limited application. Even more suggestive is the fact that “Eldresses” is used a number of time in I Tim. 5, and if the man is an elder then it should follow that the women are eldresses.
I once argued with a fellow who was very committed to the idea that women were not permitted to have any leadership role in the church or, practically, any where else except the home. I said, “If I can provide you with an example of a woman being named in a leadership role in the Bible, what will you do?” He responded, “I will eat my words.” Then I showed him Micah 6:4, “I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” He had to admit that the text did present a woman in a leadership role, but he would not eat his words. I guess the serving was not savory enough.
I use the case concerning women not to cause controversy, but to awaken interest in how the Bible has a depth that our present methods of study and understanding cannot plumb. Due to our lack of adequate intellectual methodology, we are subject to theological manipulation. An excellent illustration of such efforts can be found in church history. Prior to the Reformation, the Waldensians charged Rome with being the Antichrist. After all, they were acting like such, persecuting and putting to death those who did not submit to Rome’s rule. The Protestants took the same approach, and then an Archbishop wrote a work on the issue, focusing on the idea that one person would be the Antichrist. Today, we have many who look for a person who is the Antichrist, while institutions manifest the spirit of that nature.