The Role of Women in Ministry Today

By H. Wayne House
Nashville : Thomas Nelson (1990). 192 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Mayhue
1.2 (Fall 1990) : 208-209

The co-chairman of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood provides a comprehensive biblical appraisal of the contemporary issues related to the role of women in the local church. Most of his positions agree with those of The Master's Seminary faculty. Like House, we disagree with the statement from Christians for Biblical Equality (CT, April 9, 1990, pp. 36-37) that allows women the role of doctrinal and worship leadership in the church.

The author has studied extensively, thought carefully, assembled material logically and comprehensively, and written clearly. The book reflects his studies at Abilene Christian University and teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary.

He does not divide his book into sections, but four areas of thought are apparent: contemporary Christian feminism (chaps. 1-2), women in the NT and NT times (chaps. 3-4), women in the second and third century church (chap. 5), and the biblical role of women in the church today (chaps. 6-9).

House asserts correctly that the raison d'être of this contemporary issue has little to do with biblical exegesis. Rather, it stems from the influence of secular feminism on the church (pp. 11, 14, 159, 161). Not all who are sympathetic toward the Christian feminist movement agree with all the tenets of secular feminism, but they espouse its general spirit that role equality is a must for our day. Both House and The Master's Seminary strongly believe this to be out of harmony with biblical teaching regarding women's role in the church.

Key topics covered well by House include the purpose of creation (1 Cor 11:9), the order of creation (1 Cor 11:8; 1 Tim 2:13), and the nature of the fall (1 Tim 2:14) (pp. 26-27). He discusses significant sections on "headship" (pp. 29-34, 109-112) that clearly support the biblical teaching of male leadership. The word for "head" does not mean "source" as alleged by the "equality of role" position.

Galatians 3:28 (pp. 100-7) teaches redemptive equality, not role equality, according to House. He also treats 1 Cor 14:33-35 and 1 Tim 2:8-15, concluding, "Paul's prohibition on teaching is specifically directed toward the authoritative exercise of spiritual authority, such as that of an elder, of women over men" (p. 139).

One major flaw slightly tarnishes an otherwise fine work. On 1 Cor 11:1-16, House concludes that "public prayer by a woman of the congregation should be no less enthusiastically received in public prayer than by a man" (p. 124). He also allows for the public reading of Scripture by women. Yet he redeems himself somewhat with a strong concluding statement: "The ministry of authoritatively expounding and proclaiming the Written Word is one that falls most definitely within the confines of biblical restriction for women."

House's work is not so much reactionary as it is proactive. His concluding chapter, "Where May Women Minister in the Church Today?," first discusses the doctrinal and leadership roles of male only elders, then the role of deaconesses, and concludes with a helpful section on principles to use in establishing women in ministry.

The author has wide documentation from literature written on both sides of the issue. His "Notes" and Bibliography are marred by the misspelling of Nancy Hardesty's name ("Herdesty") (p. 189). The volume is enhanced by an extensive Scripture index (pp. 190-92).

This excellent one-volume summary on women in ministry from a biblical perspective is most useful for serious laymen, seminarians, and pastors.