It is amazing to me that nearly two thousand years after the Day of Pentecost we in the church continue to marginalize the voice of women. As a young man in Pentecostal circles I heard this passage from the Book of Joel quite often:

“It will come about after this that I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity,
and your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
and your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions,
even on the male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”

(Joel 2.28)

Immediately the prophet shifts into apocalyptic discourse after this statement. What I find most amazing is how the Apostle Peter is described as applying this to the Day of Pentecost. He sees that outpouring of the Spirit as the eschatological act of God inviting men and women into full participation as children of God.

Often women are presented various passages of Scripture that seem to indicate that they are inferior and therefore subject to men. What I find most amazing about this is that the same evangelical types who will teach a hermeneutic which avoids the obscure in favor of the more clear passages of Scripture flip the script aiming to undermine the more universalizing statement regarding women’s role in the church using more obscure passages.

When the Apostle Paul is cited we do not find Galatians 3.28 taking front and center where Paul proclaims his vision of gender in Christ, but rather obscure words about women being silent in places like 1 Corinthians 14.34 or 1 Timothy 2.12. We find these passages taking precedent when the first one seems to be foreign to the flow of the text (Gordon D. Fee argued that it isn’t original with Paul) and the second is from a letter considered by many to be non-Pauline at worst, secondary to his main corpus at best. I hear evangelicals quote 1 Corinthians 11.1-10 to me as if it is a proof-text on male authority forgetting that Paul is promoting women using their gifting, that of prophecy, in the church! Likewise, it is prophecy, which is inspired God-speech to the church (what is a homily today?) wherein respect for the audience is all that is required. Oddly enough, if Paul is talking about “authority” alone his statements in vv. 11-12 where he takes a step back and completes the circle of gender interdependency doesn’t make much sense, especially since he speaks of origins. Even more odd is the same people who harp on this passage as showing male superiority ignore the proscribed head coverings showing a sort of pick-and-choose fundamentalism. Likewise, the same people who are hard core about women learning submissively in 1 Timothy 2.11 don’t mind that their wives braid their hair, wear gold and pearls, and shop somewhere other than Target as vv. 9-10 should attack if we are going to be legalistic about Paul’s words ignoring the spirit of the text.

If our daughters can prophesy why do we limit them? Why do we create artificial definitions of church authority to say a woman can be A, B, and C, but not D (especially when the New Testament shows no coherent model for church leadership and offices)? Why do we say they can’t preach behind pulpits as if pulpits existed in the first century?

To borrow from Michel Foucault I think the answer is easy: “truth” is power. Many don’t exegete the texts of Scripture seeking the overarching motifs, but rather the texts that provide power. Those proof-texts are pre-texts for control. We ignore that in Genesis 1.26-27 God makes human, male and female he makes them. They are his icons, his image. They are his representatives to creation, together. God’s image being male and female together. Paul argued in Romans 1.18-32 that it is a danger to ignore the image of God in the opposite gender deciding to look into the mirror seeing one’s own image. Often this text is used to harp on homosexuals, but I know plenty of conservative evangelicals that freak out when someone mentions God’s “feminine side”.

We live in a “Genesis 3 World” where the fall dominates our worldview. We ignore the intention of creation in Genesis 1-2 where we have shared image bearing in Genesis 1 and woman as equal partner/helper  (ezer) in Genesis 2 for her described (not prescribed) oppression in Genesis 3. We act as if the cross of Christ brought down barriers between Jews and Gentiles alone, but not men and women. (Sometimes we get the master-slave implications.)

Our daughters are precious. This isn’t simply because “behind every great man is a great woman” but because there are great women. As long as we deny this using a hermeneutic that we would never use for other subjects we will deprive ourselves of half the church’s voice. We will harm our world by affirming their abusive patriarchies. We will someday have to explain to God why we ignored the Spirit’s choice of prophetesses and our pious exegetical excuses will be exposed as our power-seeking hearts are set before the throne of Christ. Evangelicals, we need to rethink our view of women.