Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Questions About Deborah

Don't expect a thorough teaching on Deborah from me. Since men, as well as women, read this blog, I need to be careful not to lapse into teaching when I explain the various biblical positions that I hold. That type of care obviously intensifies when I write about women assuming positions of  authority in churches. I can just imagine how quickly people would accuse me of hypocrisy! More importantly, I want to be obedient to the Lord, using my writing in ways that honor Him. If I then crossed the line from affirming biblical truth to actually teaching, I would be rebelling against Scripture's prohibition against women teaching men.

Yet whenever I express objections to women in church leadership, people waste no time in challenging me to account for women in Scripture who seem to have held leadership positions. Certainly, each of these women should be explained, and I believe it can be successfully demonstrated that not one of them sets a precedent for women taking church leadership roles.

Of all these women, Deborah usually gets mentioned the most frequently because she judged Israel during the period of the judges, and God indeed spoke through her to command Barak to fight against Sisera. Read Judges 4 to get the whole story.

I notice that verse 4 merely states that Deborah judged Israel, whereas Scripture generally introduces judges using the phrase, "the Lord raised up..." Couple this different introduction of Deborah with Judges 21:25, which says "everyone did what was right in their own eyes," and ask the obvious question: Did God appoint Deborah as judge, or did she assign the role to herself? I don't know. Frankly, neither do you! And the fact that He spoke through her in the specific instances concerning Barak may not necessarily validate her entire prophetic ministry. Could God have used her much as He used Balaam's donkey? Again, I don't know. But these questions seem reasonable.

But even if Deborah served as a judge because the Lord placed her in that position, should we assume that she therefore sets the stage for women to be pastors or to lead congregational prayer? This past week, I  chatted with pastor and fellow blogger and Dan Phillips about Deborah as a sanction for women pastors via Twitter. Dan pointed out that Old Testament Israel is not synonymous with the New Testament Church. Would we make Sampson a model for Christian pastors? Hopefully not! Than neither should Deborah serve as one.

As you can see, I have studied Deborah, and I see no reason to cite her (or any of the other strong women in Scripture) as a reason to accept women pastors.  I could go into greater detail in exploring Deborah's ministry, but again, I must  resist the temptation to establish myself as a Bible teacher. Instead, I hope you'll see that we can question her role of judging Israel, and that we have  no reason to form a correlation between any of Israel's judges and Christian pastors. With that, I will move on to other topics.

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