God Never Settles – exposing patriarchy’s nonsense about women

A woman read one of my posts on the Bible’s examples of God using women and men both to lead and teach, and she left a comment that said,

“I don’t know if you’ve heard this before but I’ve been taught that the reason God allowed Deborah to lead Israel in Judges 4-5 is because there was no man willing to take charge. God had to settle for a woman instead.”

Yes, I’ve heard people say that. There is not a shred of evidence in the book of Judges to support the position, but people say it anyway. It’s the only option for those who ascribe to a patriarchal view of faith. They have to explain away all mentions in the Bible of God building his kingdom by way of women teaching and leading. (See Silencing Women – the guaranteed way for men to stay in control.) Deborah doesn’t fit their agenda.

Deboarh pastor and preacher.jpg

But let’s take their patriarchal logic (I use the word “logic” loosely) and apply it to another event: the Resurrection.

In John’s gospel account we read that Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb first thing Sunday morning after the crucifixion and found it empty. She ran to tell Peter and John that someone had stolen the body. They ran to see for themselves and after confirming the barren tomb they went away. The context gives the impression they were quite befuddled.

Mary stuck around, though, and Jesus met her there in the cemetery garden.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20:15-16.)

File:Rembrandt - The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen - WGA19094.jpg

Christ and St Mary Magdalen at the Tomb – Rembrandt van Rijn (1638)

Reading this raises some questions for me. First, why didn’t she recognize him at first? It turns out (according to other instances recorded in the Bible) that many who knew him well had trouble recognizing Jesus after his resurrection.

Second, why did Jesus wait until John and Peter were gone before appearing in the garden? Talk about closest friends; Peter and John – along with John’s brother James – were the closest friends Jesus had. There they were, readily at hand, and Jesus chose not to reveal himself to them. He instead waited and spoke to Mary alone.

It’s almost like he was waiting for them to leave before he told her this:

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17.)

Mary did not suggest Jesus get a man to do it. She obeyed.

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:18.)

Mary Magdalene is the first person God called to preach the gospel. And for those who insist the only time God uses women to preach and lead is when men are unavailable, how do they explain the fact that John and Peter were right there?

The only explanation is that God did not want a man to be the first gospel preacher. He wanted a woman. In fact, he chose a woman over the available men who had been in discipleship under him for three years. And not only that; he chose her to go preach the good news of the resurrection to those very same men, his closest friends.

When she did, note what is absent from the Bible: no one told Mary she should have gotten one of the men to do it for her because she’s a woman; no one criticized her later for preaching to men; and not one New Testament writer ever explained away her actions as an exception to some rule about women never leading men or preaching to them.

Mary at the tombSo why do modern patriarchy preachers try to explain away events like Mary’s gospel preaching and Deborah’s leadership? Because if they don’t find some explanation for it they’d have to admit what the rest of us know – God uses women to build his kingdom just like he uses men.

How do I know? I’ve read the Bible and the Bible tells me so.


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49 Responses to God Never Settles – exposing patriarchy’s nonsense about women

  1. This is great, Tim. The thing is, many of those patriarchy preachers would be the first ones to say that we mustn’t twist God’s Word to make it say what we want it to say — yet they do exactly that when they try to argue that God preferred to use men but “settled” for women. What the Bible actually says doesn’t fit their agenda, so they add extra layers of “interpretation” to try to make it fit.

    • Tim says:

      If they insist that women can’t do something, then when the Bible shows a woman doing that it must mean there’s something wrong. It’s a sad hermeneutic, but there it is.

      • We’ve become so uncomfortable with uncertainty and apparent inconsistencies, when those are the best parts of the Bible.

        • Tim says:

          They give me much to think about, and can be quite telling when it comes to understanding how the things I think are important might not be so important to God.

  2. By using the patriarchal logic, any man, no matter how little suited, is better than any woman, no man how well suited, for any particular job/office/ministry in the church–and often in the world beyond. Yes, I was taught that for years. Nearly ended up killing me. Which, in retrospect, would have been a better solution in that patriarchal world I inhabited at the time. Instead, I divorced my abusive husband, walked away from the abusive seminary/church environment, was declared an evil and unrepentant woman and wiped from the institutional memory. Gotta love em.

    • Tim says:

      I am sorry you had to endure that and I am glad you got away from it. I remember one article where the patriarchy folks even insisted that a woman correctly pointing out a man’s error in teaching was herself in error for doing so. Sheesh.

    • I’m glad you found the courage to walk away. Me too. God is good!

  3. It’s almost as if they are wearing blue glasses and find a blue tint in everything they see!
    I think it’s time to ask them to take off their blue glasses so they can see clearly.

  4. Tim, thanks for fleshing this out. I’ve often thought about the fact that Jesus intentionally waited to reveal himself to Mary. I so appreciate your insights on this overlooked aspect of the story. It reminds me of the story of the woman at the well, when Jesus sent all 12 of the disciples into town to get food and bring it back. All 12, really? It’s as if he wanted to have a private conversation with this woman. The end result was one of the longest theological conversations recorded in the New Testament and the evangelizing of the whole town.

    • Tim says:

      That comparison is telling in another way too, Gail. John, the recorder of both events, was not in the least reluctant to show Jesus and a woman having conversations from which Jesus excluded men, and he didn’t try to explain away the circumstances either.

  5. Angie says:

    Great post. During the #SBC2016, Denny Burk affirmed he would not allow Mary to proclaim the resurrection at his church on a Sunday morning to a co-ed assembly. Sad.

    • Tim says:

      So what was good enough for Jesus is not good enough for Mr. Burk? Interesting.

    • Ruth says:

      ‘Burk would stop a woman, told directly by the Risen Saviour to do His bidding, at ‘his’ assembly??? I’ve read this over and over, and my mouth is still hanging open at the very thought of such misplaced pride and arrogance. Christ’s chosen messenger told, in essence, to shut her mouth on the word she was to deliver for our Redeemer?
      I would be scared stiff and totally ashamed to even think of such a thing.

  6. I love it when Jesus smashes societal rules and expectations of His day. Truly! And, not only those of the first century–any century. Thanks for lifting this faulty, flawed perspective/mindset up again, Tim. Showing blatant misogyny for what it is.

    • Tim says:

      Smashing expectations in a timeless way, that’s what Jesus did in reaching out to the marginalized and oppressed. I hope to be Christ-like and do the same.

  7. Pastor Bob says:

    On the one hand you are right on.
    On the other hand, there are things that are best left to men OR women.
    Leadership, well let’s just say that some is best left to women, some to men.
    == (some is obvious, some just works out that way)

    One large Pentecostal church movement has from its beginning in the early 1900’s (very sexist days indeed) ordained women almost immediately. Funny thing, in the churches pastored by women the membership and attendees were more lopsided, more women that expected (usually it is 60% women – this approached 70% for the longest time).

    I can show you times where masculine ideas ran counter to what God was doing, and counter to what was effective. Same for feminine ideas running against what was best. Can we set aside some (SOME!) of the pettiness and let God be God? Often He has done wondrous things through that which is denounced, yet He has also with held blessing for the same reason.

    We will find HIM working through all of this -period.

    • Tim says:

      I agree we will see God working through it all, but I will never agree that speaking against subjugating women based on faulty doctrine is something to set aside.

    • I haven’t done any research to support my hypothesis but I would guess the ratio of attendees in a male led church would be very similar.

    • juliezcoleman says:

      I’m thinking the reason so many women attended that church was because they were so thrilled to finally see a woman in the pulpit.

    • angconley says:

      Maybe we should get rid of the unbiblical “one person pastor” model and have every member ministry and a team of elders instead? Then we would benefit from women and men working together at every level!

  8. Mary Jo Noworyta says:

    Unfortunately, this teaching has been taught by leaders in the churches I’ve attended. Using missionaries as an example, the reason women were ‘allowed’ to preach was when men weren’t available. Women were ‘allowed’ to give testimonies, but not teach or preach. I never knew the difference. I’ve been arguing with people in the church for over thirty years over this and other issues that are not found in God’s Word. God uses anyone who is willing to listen. Thank you for promoting the truth!

  9. And this is only ONE hermeneutically sound example of the error of patriarchal-dogmatism (along with a long list of other dogmatic and hermeneutical flaws espoused to maintain control and dominance). There are several other examples just as strong, if not even stronger than this one, for instance Priscilla “teaching” Apollo the “better way.” I love Priscilla’s style too, how the waited until the synagogue meeting was over to bring correction to Apollo privately and with much meekness. Anyway, Well-done Tim!

  10. tina louise says:

    I see Mary being used as a messager.. not a pastor/preacher. There is a difference. Deborah,being my favorite women of the bible was used in a mighty way but not as a pastor/preacher.

    • Tim says:

      And yet even if viewed as a mere messenger (although the passage shows she fid more than merely carry a message) there are preachers who would forbid her to announce Christ’s message. They have no biblical support for their position.

    • CJ says:

      I’m inclined to agree with tina. I think the story about Mary isn’t about preaching/messenge delivering, whatever, but about faithfulness and demonstrating how the church is something akin to a family.

      In his moment of crisis, all the men except John deserted him. But the women remained, and subsequently the women were the first to encounter the risen Christ. Traditionally in that culture, women were the “first teachers”, in the family home teaching the foundations of the Jewish faith (“at the mother’s knee”). It was only later – once a level of maturity was possessed – that you would go to the temple to be further educated. Mothers still in the here and now possess that role in a different way than a father; because of our unique bond with our children we are their first teachers in all manner of things, including faith.

      The fact that the women were in fact the “first teachers” shows an order in that traditional structure, and extends it to the Christian family. We are educators, not preachers – there is a difference. Maybe among Protestants that distinction is less clear because a “preacher” is not endowed the same way as a priest would be. But women have always had a critical role in teaching and spreading the gospel. Again, maybe that’s a Protestant bias where women are often “the wife” of a pastor, vs. a Catholic religious that is wedding to Christ himself (and a priest wedded to the Church as Christ is wedded). We somehow equate all the “power” to be on the pulpit, behind/in front of the altar, and being the visible head, as if that’s the most important way to spread the gospel. But the reality is that’s only a very small part of an entire myriad of gospel tools at our disposal to fulfill the Great Commission.

      • Tim says:

        Even in that context – and it is an interesting way to look at the gospel and the church, so I thank you for laying it out clearly – there are those in the patriarchal wing who would insist that Mary’s announcement to the apostles is an anomaly and not what women are really allowed to do as kingdom work. My point in this post is to show that not only did Mary do so, but that Jesus specifically chose her over the available men to do it.

    • Harmony Klingenmeyer says:

      Deborah was the Judge of all of Israel. Both men and women came to her with legal issues and to hear the Word of the Lord proclaimed. She was a prophet. So, in the Old Testament sense, she was absolutely a pastor/preacher. She was the leader of the entire nation, both legally and spiritually, and both men and women obeyed what she commanded.

      When interpreting the Scriptures it is important to not create a doctrine out of one verse. That is what the patriarchal preachers have done with 1 Timothy 2:12. This is the only verse in the Bible that expressly forbids women from teaching men. Jesus Himself said that by the mouth of two or three witnesses each word should be established. In other words, we don’t make doctrine out of one verse. That is heresy. And the patriarchal doctrine is the most popular heresy in the church, and has been for the last 1500 years.

      Before that, women ministered freely. Just study women of the early church. Their ministries have been documented in other places other than the Bible. I encourage you to read about Photini, who was the Samaritan woman that Jesus used to preach to her city (another example of Jesus choosing a woman on purpose to preach the gospel to both men and women). She went on to travel and preach the Gospel throughout Alexandria. God calls and uses women often in leadership and preaching positions.

    • angconley says:

      A prophet has more spiritual authority than a pastor. A judge has more authority too. A preacher has zero authority over those they preach to, they have to persuade. In every way, Deborah is a thorn in the side of those thinking in sexist ways. We are all called to prophesy and to teach and eventually become elders (even if we never have an official title or any positional authority).

  11. Pingback: God Never Settles – exposing patriarchy’s nonsense about women | lovetruthpeaceblog

  12. This was worth coming back from holiday for! 😀

  13. I love how the Lord is using us to share the Word of God! Bless you and your Work

    I have began to use mine for ministry purposes of course. It is really great to see God using people to paint many pictures of truth and in our own way.
    I am looking to become a Christian Writer, at least helping me with my teaching gifts, and inspirational spirit from God!. If you could take the time to check out some of mine as well and share them with others. I pray that it blesses you always. In Jesus name.
    Thank you so much Daniel Byzewski

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for the link, Daniel. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be and I found the blue font on that background a bit hard to read. What I could read looked good, though.

  14. Pingback: Patriarchy on the Equality of Women and Men | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  15. By saying that God “settled” for a woman, are they implying that God is too weak to convince a man to do what He needs? I’m reminded of His patience with Moses when Moses was reluctant to speak to pharaoh. Or is He too stupid and lazy to find exactly who He wanted?
    And they wouldn’t allow Mary M to proclaim the gospel in “their” church? 1 I thought it was the house of the Lord, and 2, do they now have more authority than God? Does He know this? Because I think that’s newsworthy.

  16. MeganC says:

    Oh, how I love this.

  17. Kitti says:

    Doesn’t the Bible say something about a curse for people who ADD to the word?

  18. Jo says:

    Its interesting that Mary wasn’t at home attending her home (like we are told to do as women), no, the women stayed at the tomb and waited. They understood that this was far more important than dusting or cleaning or even providing dinner for their husband. I think it is very moving that God chose a woman to deliver the most important message there has ever been and He trusted Mary to do it.

  19. allen Wilson says:

    God uses whom he uses. i mean if we dont praise Him, He will command rocks to praise Him.

    instead of coming into Jerusalem on a white horse, He came on a donkey.

    When Jesus was telling His disciples what they would be doing. they asked about the one disciple whom Jesus loved. Jesus replied “if i will that he stays here what is that to you”

    take it as you take it. but this has nothing to do with genderism as much as it has to do with Jesus using whom he uses.

    one last thing segregating groups though the gospel is ineffective on all accounts. ALL segregated group empowerment creates disunity within the church. Brotherhood/Sisterhood is held in such high regard with Jesus, so much so that he said this is the major way the world will know that we are who we say we are is by our love for one another.

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