About Kingdom & Rulership Relationships, Society, Culture Right Order & Right Judgment
5 clear reasons Christians should oppose female heads of state
3 minutes to read Once the cultural blinders are removed, the evidence of Scripture against women ruling society is difficult to ignore. There are clear teleological, a fortiori, exegetical, inductive, and missional reasons for Christians to regard the rule of women, in the words of John Knox, as monstruous.
One of the strange things about culture is how invisible its influences can be on us. Fish do not know when they are wet, frogs do not know when they are being boiled, and people do not know when they are rebelling.
It works the other way as well: once you become aware of your acculturation and correct it, the correction can seem very obvious and the acculturation of others very frustrating. I’ve explored this with respect to the role of women in combat, [ D. Bnonn Tennant, Why a woman bearing the sword is an abomination to the Lord (May 2018).] and movies; [ D Bnonn Tennant, Can badass female characters ever be redeemed? (May 2018).] today I’d like to offer a much briefer piece on the role of women in government.
What I’m going to do is give merely the outlines of five transparent reasons for Christians to oppose female rule. I doubt anyone living in the culture of the first century would have seen need to overtly state these, let alone develop them further. They are either clear to you, or they are not; and if they are not, the problem is not your conscientious desire to inspect the individual trees, but rather your need to do so before judging on the existence of the forest.
- Teleological: women exercising headship violates the creation design, for Adam was formed first, and then Eve (cf. 1 Timothy 2:13). Thus the prohibitions on women exercising headship in families and congregations are not arbitrary restrictions over specific domains, but merely two instances of a broader teleological principle.
- A fortiori: nations are comprised of collections of households. If a woman is not to exercise headship over one household (1 Peter 3:5–6), how much less should she exercise headship over many households.
- Exegetical: Scripture describes the rulership of women over a nation as a curse, akin to being defeated by children (Isaiah 3:12, 4). A curse is a fitting inversion of God’s intended order, as a judgment on rebellion against it (cf. Romans 1:18ff).
- Inductive: Women are not to exercise headship in the assembly (1 Timothy 2:12). The assembly is a kingdom and a nation (e.g. 1 Peter 2:9). Therefore, women are not to exercise headship in kingdoms or nations generally.
- Missional: Israel, and now the church, are God’s models for a rightly ordered society (Deuteronomy 4:6–8; Psalm 19:7; Matthew 5–7 etc), which is why we are commanded to teach all the nations to conform to this model (Matthew 28:18–20). Thus, Christians must preach all the nations to reject female heads of state.
You may see a kind of progression to these individual arguments; they sum up to a larger cumulative case. That’s because there’s a redemptive-historical angle here; God’s design for kingdom in general is unfolded via the establishment of his own kingdom in Scripture. He is a father-king, and thus the people he requires to represent his rule are men. This is true of the greatest King on his throne over his father’s house, to the least pauper in his TV armchair over his own house (Ephesians 3:14–15).
1. What do you think was the relationship between Adam and Eve prior to the fall? It wasn’t just Eve blindly submitting to Adam, because she was the one who convinced him to eat from the forbidden tree.
2. The relationship between a husband and his household is very different from the relationship a head of state has with all the households in a state, so I don’t see why you can expand from one to the other.
3. At that time, having women as rulers was seen as shameful. At the same time, the Bible writes about the sun rising and moving on the sky. It’s something that was interpreted that way at the time.
4. The assembly is A kingdom and A nation, not ALL kingdoms and ALL nations. And more importantly, it’s special kingdom, different from all others. Why would it’s rules apply to other kingdoms and nations?
5. In the Kingdom of Heaven there are no heads of state, because the Lord is the ultimate authority, so we shouldn’t just argue against female heads of state, but against all of them.
Also, you have previously promised in some comments that you will write a post about Deborah, who held authority over Israel. I am waiting for that post.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
1. I never suggested “blind submission;” that’s your gloss. But it’s ironic that you point to Adam’s failure to rule as if that’s somehow proof that Adam wasn’t supposed to rule. God curses him precisely because he “listened to the voice of his wife.”
2. You’re lacking a theology of household, so the connection is not clear to you. Extrapolate back to Adam, whose household was also the first state. A household is a kingdom in microcosm, and as it expands and becomes many, the kingdom expands into its fullness. That is why it is called the house of Israel.
3. The chronological snobbery fallacy isn’t actually a valid comeback to God lamenting the shame of women’s rule.
4. You’re misunderstanding the argument. I’m establishing a pattern from the paradigm. The assembly doesn’t have to be like other kingdoms and nations in every way. It just has to be relevantly similar. If the social order of God’s model for kingdom is founded on patriarchy (and it is), then it’s reasonable to infer that the social order of any more ordinary kingdom ought to be founded on patriarchy as well.
5. That Jesus will be the only king in the kingdom of heaven doesn’t mean that there will be no other rulers. He explicitly says that we will reign with him, in many places. We see a hierarchy of rule in the heavenly places already (cf. my series on kingdom theology), so why should we think we are aiming to eliminate hierarchy on earth? Moreover, our job is explicitly not to eliminate nations, but to bring them into Jerusalem. For the nations to go up the hill of the Lord and learn from him means that they will learn how he wants them to be ordered and governed.
The post on Deborah is here: https://bnonn.com/but-what-about-deborah
So I have a question for you w.r.t. the above: Quite often when one find posts on Identity in Christ, what you find is that the authors are always stating things in a negative fashion. So…
~> “You are not that woman on the cover of Vogue. Thats not your identity. Your identity is in Christ.”
~> “Your work is not who you are. Stop working so much. Your identity is in Christ.”
~> “Put down that drink. Stop dressing like a goth! …” etc.
So my question to you is, when then is a woman’s role positively stated? Additionally, what are your thoughts on Identity in Christ(IiC)?
~ Now it may be that you have already written on this (I have another tab open to something else you have written presently.) and if so then pass over what I said. I will find it. If not, then please weigh in.
Another issue: You can’t help but wonder about life in the world beyond this one. One where marriage is no more, when then for a woman’s role? Rulership then?
I am a single woman who has to work outside the home to support myself, just like the biblical Lydia. Are you saying I should refuse to give training/direction to any male subordinates? That would make me unemployable for the vast majority of careers.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Nicoletta, this is a question I get surprisingly often. I say surprisingly, because there’s no obvious connection (in my mind) between rulership and business.
The key issue is actually the comment you made: “outside the home, just like the biblical Lydia.” I’m not aware of any evidence that Lydia worked outside the home, if by that you mean outside the household (obviously lots of work for both men and women takes place away from the physical structures in which we live, and always has). This is actually the pivotal issue to figuring out a lot of thornier questions viz gender roles, because it highlights how extraordinary, and even pathological, it is for people to be working outside of a household in the modern day. We have almost entirely obliterated the concept of household which has bound every other society together since Adam and Eve.
You may find this helpful: https://bnonn.com/but-what-about-businesswomen/
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Raj, I think my kingdom series may help with angling at the question of “identity in Christ.” I haven’t written on it specifically in those terms, but the general idea of what it means (or should mean) is very much in there. I.e., our identity is as familial representatives of God, through adoption through and identification with our covenant head, Jesus. It sets a context for our lives, but it’s not a catchall for describing everything we are. We don’t lose our own identities by being identified with Jesus. Rather, our identities are magnified inasmuch as they represent our Father, and wither inasmuch as they do not.
In terms of the life to come, this is a puzzler. We aren’t told how it will work. My best guess—and it is purely a guess—is that the idea behind abolishing marriage is to abolish households (plural) in order that there will be only one house of God. Within that house, (some) men will still exercise priestly and kingly roles, and women will still exercise supportive ones. I don’t think the created order will be overturned, but rather perfected.
~ It occurred to me later on that the Proverbs 31 might have been addressed in answer to me? Was it?
If so, I think Proverbs 31 will only covers a subset of cases. It does not seem to me to be a complete answer. If I am failing to understand something please let me know. Thanks.
I lived in upstate NY for a long whiles. There were Xtn folks there who came down really hard on this issue of rule. They went so far as to say that in a family, only the sons should go to college and get educated. The daughters should not be educated. They could stay at home and learn from mom how to run a house. It smacks of legalism to me.
~ There are some women – single and married – who are absolutely brilliant in various scientific fields and they are doing an incredible job running research labs doing cancer research, quantum computing, etc. Their intelligence and their research advances are so remarkable that one can only conclude that this is a gift from God. Sometimes genius is so remarkable, that the only explanation is God. Its not simply good genes or hard work paying off. Its God. But why would God give gifts like this?
If there is something out there that only you can do and this is something quite rare – e.g. understand the particulars of some aspect of K-theory – then this is quite likely not simply a gift from God, but it is also quite likely a calling. And this calling might involve you getting a PhD and supervising grad students who also want to study K-theory.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Raj, yeah, see my comments above, including the link I gave Nicoletta. I’d generally agree with your take. To say a woman should not be educated because a woman is not to rule is just to evince confusion about what rulership means, and what kinds of it are prohibited to women. The patriarchy movement is unfortunately full of such people, which is why I refer to father-rule more often than patriarchy. Women are not to rule as fathers; i.e., as representatives of the Father. That doesn’t mean they aren’t given gifts by the Father that they should develop, nor callings to follow which lead them outside the household (especially since just about everything is sadly outside the household since the industrial revolution).
Thank you for your reply. I guess my other question would be practical; do you emigrate to another country if a female is elected president in your country? What about voting for a woman or non-Christian as a president (Donald Trump would certainly not qualify for pastoral leadership) if the opposing candidate supports abortion?
Do you leave Earth if it’s filled with wicked sinners?
@Yoreyc – I assume you would leave a church if it was pastored by a woman. If a woman is not to be in authority over men, logically there is a corresponding responsibility on the part of men to not submit to female leadership.
Moreso because such a church would be in violation of scriptural doctrine (outlined by Bnonn in the article).
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Nicoletta, as you note, there’s a real question as to whether a woman ruler is actually exercising the office of rulership at all. Your analogy of pastors is exactly right. If you have a male pastor who is ruling badly, you must respect him as a pastor even as you disagree with him, rebuke him, or even defy him. He is a pastor even if he is doing a bad job; he is legitimately, though poorly, exercising his office.
By contrast, a woman who claims to be a pastor is not legitimately exercising that office; a woman pastor is a contradiction in terms, just like a female father, or a homosexual marriage. You do not have to respect her as a pastor because she is not one, and can not be one.
This being so, I would (tentatively) argue that a female president or prime minister, or a queen, is similarly not a legitimate ruler. A woman cannot exercise that office. Sure, she can do the things associated with the office, just like two men can do the things associated with matrimony, but it’s not legitimate rulership any more than it’s legitimate marriage.
If this is right, then your question is very fraught. Taking the most extreme option, what if your choice is voting for a generally virtuous woman, or voting for an abortion-happy man like Obama? You’re having to choose between two really bad options; on the one hand, casting your vote for upholding right order, but choosing someone who will generally exercise evil judgment; on the other hand, casting your vote for overturning right order, but choosing someone who will generally exercise right judgment. These seem essentially to be both voting for evil. But then, not voting might also be ensuring evil.
I would hesitate to impress a particular course of action on anyone’s conscience in such a difficult situation. Leaving the country might certainly be a legitimate option, but it’s very impractical compared to leaving a congregation, and in fact there might be no better countries to immigrate to. Moreover, the only way the situation will improve is by Christians enacting the Great Commission, so leaving seems counterproductive to that end.
One of the things I’m not really interested in doing is trying to change our culture. What I want to do is call Christians back to biblical fidelity, so we can preach it to our culture. It is only the Holy Spirit who can change anything in a way that matters.
What about 2 Timothy 2:12 “if we endure, we will also reign with him?”. Is the we there only for men? What happens to women if they endure?
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Roland, I’m not sure what the puzzle is here. Passages like this are anticipating the perfection and completion of the cultural mandate, which was given to man as a race, and included women. Eve also had dominion over the earth. It just cashes out differently for women. Maybe you should read that post I linked above on businesswomen, along with my post on whether women are the image of God.
My puzzle is that “reigning” implies ruling over people, which means some women will rule over some men, and not just in a bussinesswoman like sense.
I would be very interested to read what’s your take on what are the roles of women, as opposed to just what they shouldn’t do.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
Well I just pointed you to two articles that both clear up the puzzle and articulate the roles of women.
I find your argument for a nation as a form of household weak. Your referral to the “house of Israel” does not convince. I’ve always read it in the context of heritage; Israel (that is Jacob) is still ruling through his descendants. The same usage can be seen in medieval literature, where “house of” is used to describe hereditary familial power structures such as dynasty or clan.
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
I’m just not drawing arbitrary bifurcations like you are, because Scripture doesn’t. Re-read the beginning of Hebrews 3.
The US, Canada, and other Western-style democracies are not Old Testament theocracies, nor are they monarchies (although some nations have titular royalty without much real power). Political processes are not what they were in Old Testament times. We no longer have child regent princes as rulers.
If you want to say that a Christian woman should not run for public office, I respectfully disagree, as long as her husband concurs with her decision if she is married and her children are of an age that it is appropriate. (The same could be said for men who run for political offic as well. Children need a dad who is not spending more time in Washington, DC or in the state capitol than at home as well.) If she is single, it is up to her. She does not need to ask her father for permission.
What’s next? Does a married woman have to ask her husband how she should vote? Do single women have to ask their fathers, even if they are single well into their 30s and may even be homeowners by that time?
Dominic Bnonn Tennant
When you engage with any of the actual reasons I gave, rather than just expressing opinion and incredulity, I’ll be happy to respond in kind.
>What’s next? Does a married woman have to ask her husband how she should vote? Do single women have to ask their fathers, even if they are single…
>…well into their 30s