Leadership is Male: Truth Must Not Be Based On Cultural Consensus but on the Revealed Mind of God

By J. David Pawson
Nashville : Oliver Nelson (1990). 128 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Mayhue
2.1 (Spring 1991) : 117-118

This brief volume will provoke a definite response since it deals with a hotly debated issue. J. David Pawson, a Cambridge-trained, charismatic, Baptist pastor, courageously offers this primer to stimulate biblical thinking about leadership among God's redeemed people.

The title reflects the book's position immediately. The foreword, written by Elisabeth Elliot, is an appeal to conservatives. Its sensitive tone toward women makes it easy to read objectively.

Those who want thorough coverage of the subject and detailed exegesis will be disappointed (see H. Wayne House, The Role of Women in Ministry Today [Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1990] for such a treatment). But those desiring a survey of the significant biblical texts, the basic issues, and crucial questions involved will be delighted with Pawson's clear thinking and crisp style.

The author has a high view of Scripture (pp. 21-22, 111-12, 114- 16) and takes the Bible in its normal sense rather than retranslating or reinterpreting it. He does not follow a contexualizing or culturalizing hermeneutic that would "update" Scripture for our times.

The conviction of Pawson is that equality of status does not mean interchangeability of function (pp. 21, 25). He concludes "that the paradox of gender in creation (the vertical equality and horizontal inequality) remains a feature in this present world and is consistently maintained throughout the Old and New Testaments" (p. 99).

Notable contributions include:

• Discussing society's drift towards "goddess spirituality" and gender confusion in the Godhead (pp. 17, 28-30, 116-19).

• Differentiating between male and female in Genesis 1-2 (pp. 25-27).

• Surveying OT leadership patterns (pp. 37-42).

• Outlining Jesus's response to women and leadership selection (pp. 45-53).

• Thinking through Gal 3:28 (pp. 67-71, 109). • Interpreting 1 Tim 2:11-15 (pp. 82-90).

• An overview of leadership in the New Jerusalem (pp. 93-94).

Pawson concludes that the church needs to do three things (pp. 100-1). First, it must stop putting women in positions of leadership over men. On the positive side, it needs to find more ministry opportunities for women. Third, it must train men more effectively.

This reviewer agrees wholeheartedly with the author's conclusions. However, readers need to watch for some not-so-minor flaws. Notable, but probably not intentionally, is a "leaking" of Pawson's Pentecostal/charismatic convictions, though they contribute nothing to the resolution of the issue at hand (pp. 21, 57-58, 60, 95, 102). Also, a brief discussion of "image" seems essential, but Pawson has written, "There is not need to discuss the meaning of `image'" (p. 23). He incorrectly states that "'male and female' is never used of fish, animals or birds`only of man" (p. 24; cf. Gen. 6:19, 7:2-3).

Pawson's brief discussions of Genesis 6, Jude 6 (pp. 93-94), and 1 Tim 2:15 (p. 89) lack the balance of most of his expositions. His position on the ordination of women is unclear in his short treatment (p. 97). The book's credibility could be significantly strengthened by correcting these deficiencies.

The author begins his work with a penetrating question: "Is [woman in spiritual leadership over man] a biblical idea whose time is come, like the abolition of slavery? or is it yet another case of Christians being conformed to the world?" (p. 15). He correctly concludes for the latter. This is the major reason the book needed to be written. It will help stop the unscriptural tide of so-called "evangelical" feminism from washing ashore on the church of Jesus Christ.