Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Should Christian Colleges Let Female Faculty Teach Men the Bible?

By now I suspect many are familiar with the new policy at Cedarville University. In March the president of Cedarville announced
that Bible and theology classes taught by female faculty members would not include male students. In other words, women will only teach women. A university spokesman said:
In courses where we seek to equip women for women's ministry in the local church, classes have been reserved for women in order to accomplish this goal most effectively," said Mark Weinstein, spokesman for the university.

I am not looking to debate whether or not what Cedarville is doing is correct. The fact is I am in strong disagreement with the decision. I teach at a seminary where women are full faculty members and have men in the classes they teach. I have also been a student at colleges where women were my instructors. So I think the restriction is wrong. 

But what I do find curious is that the restriction is only on those females teaching Bible/Theology. In other words, a female could, in theory, teach English, history, science or any other topic that wasn't somehow related to the Bible or, more importantly, viewed as training potential candidates for the ministry. Somehow that is the problem based, I'm sure, on 1 Tim 2:11-15. 

This is not the first time I have encountered this attitude. I have met many a person who thought women couldn't be pastors, but could teach Sunday school. The logic here seems to be that the women can teach children, but not adults. But now this logic is being extended to the halls of the academy. 

Christianity Today posed the question to five people most of whom play some role in a college or seminary. All of the respondents would agree that women should not be pastors, but they have varying views on how that works out in the classroom.

What do you think about their conclusions? Does the topic or location of a female teacher impact whether or not she can teach? 

"A college is not a church. It does not baptize, exercise church discipline, have elders and deacons, and so on. Biblical restrictions refer only to office (usually elders) rather than function, and that view simply can't be fairly transferred to a college or even a seminary."
Craig Blomberg, New Testament professor, Denver Seminary 
"It comes down to your view of ecclesiology. I don't think you take an 18-year-old, crank him through a 4-year degree, and once he has a letter behind his name he's a church leader. I think that's a worldly way of looking at the office as an institution."
Mary Kassian, women's studies professor, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"The university is a gray area, but we should stay as much to the center of God's Word and principles as we can. He is going to have far greater pleasure in seeing a male theologian in the classroom than in our seeing if we couldn't put a woman in simply because she's gifted."
Dorothy Patterson, first lady, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
"While Scripture addresses church settings, teaching roles that are elder-like should be shaped according to biblical eldership. Other aspects of elder qualifications would be operative for schools, so there's no reason to lop off the requirement that they be men."
Owen Strachan, executive director, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

"Mixed-gender theology classes should be taught by men. It is illogical to say a woman should train men to be Bible teachers and pastors when she shouldn't be one herself. If women shouldn't be pastors or elders in churches, then they should also not have that role in other contexts."
Wayne Grudem, theology professor, Phoenix Seminary