Why Not to Have a Woman Preach

Thomas Schreiner

The specific question on the table is this: Does 1 Timothy 2:12 leave open the possibility that women are permitted to preach in the weekly gathering of a local church as an extension of the male elders of the church or as an expression under their governing authority?

John Piper says no (in Ask Pastor John episode 533).

Andrew Wilson says yes (in a response to Piper).

So who is right? And does it matter?

Piper argues that women should not preach in the local church, even under the authority of the elders, nor should they regularly teach Sunday School to a mixed audience. I will argue here, over against Wilson, that Piper is right, and his answer is well stated.

Let me say up front that I rejoice that Wilson believes, as Scripture makes plain, that women should not serve as pastors, and I have often profited from Wilson’s writings in other areas. He is a friend and colleague in the greatest cause. Still, on this matter, I think he missteps, as I will explain below.

Wilson’s Three Arguments

Wilson gives three arguments to support the notion that women may preach under the authority and permission of the elders. By the way, this is not a new view or a novel third way being disseminated. Such a view was certainly around when I was a seminary student in the 1970s and the 1980s. We are reminded that there is nothing new under the sun.

What are Wilson’s three arguments?

First, he argues that not all preaching is teaching. There are other kinds of speaking in the New Testament besides teaching, such as words of exhortation, prophecy, or evangelistic preaching. Nothing forbids women from doing this kind of speaking, says Wilson.

Second, teaching likely has a specific referent, focusing on “the preservation and transmission of the authentic apostolic witness to Jesus, in the era before the New Testament was written down.”

Third, Wilson quotes me to say that there are two different kinds of teaching. He points to passages like 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16 where everyone in the church is encouraged to teach and instruct one another, and thus women would be included in this admonition. Wilson distinguishes between big-T and little-t teaching. He says,

In our context, incidentally, we work this out by asking all non-elders in our church who preach to submit their sermons to an elder, get their feedback on it, and only then deliver it publicly; that way, the speaker is doing the little-t teaching, and the elder is doing the big-T Teaching.

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Nate Logan