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A Thought on Women, Education and The Ministry

July 10th, 2006

[I originally posted this on the Christians for Biblical Equality Blog]

In the first century, women lacked the education available to men. This was true for both Jews and Gentiles. No matter where one presently lands in the discussion about women in the ministry; this fact, everyone agrees upon. Craig Keener stated this in Discovering Biblical Equality, “Learning in the Assemblies” [p. 169]. He writes, “More reasonably, women on average were less educated than men, an assertion that no one genuinely conversant with ancient literature would doubt.” Complementarians have used this as a reason to further their arguments forbidding women to preach, teach and exercise authority over men. In the first century, less education equaled less fitness for the ministry. On July 9, 2006, Tamar Lewin wrote an article in the New York Times titled, “At Colleges, Women are leaving Men in the Dust.” Lewin states that women make up 58 per cent of students in both 2 year and 4 year colleges and universities. The most striking statement in the article reads, “Small wonder, then, that at elite institutions like Harvard, small liberal arts colleges like Dickinson, huge public universities like the University of Wisconsin and U.C.L.A. and smaller ones like Florida Atlantic University, women are walking off with a disproportionate share of the honors degrees.” The word “disproportionate” is the important one here. So, in the United States, at least, women are better educated than men. For complementarians, women remain less qualified [or unqualified altogether] for the ministry. Lack of learning is given as a complementarian reason for disqualification from ministry among women in the first century. Oddly for complementarians now, learning has nothing to do with 21st century ministry in the United States. If women are better educated than men, should they be labelled as unqualified for full leadership positions in the church?

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