The Role of Women in the Church, in Society and in the Home -- By: W. Ward Gasque

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 12:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: The Role of Women in the Church, in Society and in the Home
Author: W. Ward Gasque

The Role of Women in the Church,
in Society and in the Home

W. Ward Gasque

Ward Gasque is a New Testament Scholar specializing in the Book of Acts. He was Vice Principal and Professor of New Testament at Regent College, Provost of Eastern College, and served at Ontario Theological Seminary. Dr. Gasque is presently associated with the Seattle Association for Theological Education in Seattle, Washington. Priscilla Papers 2:2, Spring 1988.

In his book, Evangelicals at an Impasse: Biblical Authority in Practice (John Knox Press, 1979), Robert K. Johnston, dean of North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, puts his finger on an embarrassing situation. While Evangelicals are all committed to a high view of Scripture, to the absolute authority of Scripture, they disagree on almost everything else.

This is an overstatement, of course. You can take the affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed, and there may be one or two statements at most which any orthodox Christians would quarrel with. There is at the heart of the gospel a core of Christian commitment that all Christians who are committed to Scripture affirm. On the other hand, we as Evangelicals come to a tremendous variety of conclusions on almost every sort of thing when we approach Scripture. The subject at hand is but one illustration of this disunity.

To begin with, it is important to affirm that people on both sides of the debate are committed to the authority of Scripture. It is unfair to say that one side or the other accepts Scripture and the other does not. This accusation has been made many times in this debate as in others, but it really doesn’t help to do so. If you take this position, you end up not having any discussion at all.

Today we seldom debate questions concerning forms of church government. People used to take these matters very, very seriously indeed—whether you should have bishops, or whether you should have elders, or whether you should have deacons, or whether you should be more organized according to congregational pattern. Which is the scriptural form of church organization? It probably does not make a lot of difference to most Evangelical Christians today. And yet, blood has been spilt, literally and figuratively, over an issue like that, on the basis of how people have approached Scripture.

The two divergent approaches to the question of the role of women which are common among contemporary Evangelical Christians we might call the Traditional View (the majority opinion) and the Egalitarian View (the minority opinion).

The Traditional View stresses submission and dependence. A woman’s role in relation to home, church and society is to be in submission to her husband (or to male leadership)...

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