Revised and Updated: Should Women Be Pastors?

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credit: telegraph.co.uk

We have all passed through that stage. We didn’t understand why our parents wouldn’t let us sleep over at a friend’s house, or why we had to brush our teeth, or eat our vegetables and make our beds. All our confused and pained “whys” were quickly silenced by mum’s firm “Because I said so”. Of course, now that we are older and we understand about neighborhood feuds, cavities, good diet and grooming, we can appreciate these formerly oppressive commands. Hindsight is always 20-20.

In retrospect, we can see that our parents had nothing but our good in mind. Even though we were too young to understand the “whys”, our parents were old enough, and that was enough for the time being. No, we did not enjoy the pain and darkness surrounding those commands. Deep down in our hearts, we were convinced that our parents were just plain mean, sometimes.

While a similar case can be made for why God gives us certain commands and instructions, the parallels do not always fit. Analogies are helpful, but analogies can only go so far. Even so, there is something to be said about some seemingly “pointless”, “oppressive” and “irrelevant” commands in the Bible.

OFFICIAL CAPACITY

I would like to zoom in on what I can only describe (for lack of a better description) as official commands in the Bible. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the adjective official as “of or relating to an office, position, or trust.” To say that someone is official is to say that he or she is to be recognized and treated in reference to the authority or office they claim to represent.

Whether that person has the intrinsic talents and abilities to carry out that official role is irrelevant to the fact that they already have that role. This is why Christians are commanded to submit to all earthly authorities (Romans 13), even those that are oppressive and definitely fail to qualify for that office. We are not commanded to submit only to good leaders or qualified leaders, only to people in leadership, their CVs and character notwithstanding.

At the risk of belabouring this point, consider two friends working in the same office. One friend is the supervisor or manager of the other. If one day the subordinate friend came to work late, the supervisor friend may have to deal with her in her “official capacity” and dish out the required discipline. This is fairly easy to understand in our various “official” interactions with friends and family in life. However, we are not so quick to recognize similar rules when it comes to the Bible and the different “Biblical offices.”

Consider this controversial passage:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [1 Tim 2:12-14]

THE PASTOR’S OFFICE

I say that this verse is controversial beforehand because it speaks to an issue that is quite divisive and hotly contested in the church today — the issue of women as pastors and elders in the church.

Some of the arguments raised against having women as pastors include the claim that Paul was speaking to a specific cultural problem and context, and that the command is not universally applicable to today’s society. This is probably right, but there are passages in other parts of the Bible that make it difficult to use this line of argument as the conclusive proof that the issue of women in church leadership was only a cultural one. Even so,

I will not be dealing with that argument today. What I am concerned about is a different line of thought. A line of thought that may actually render the whole “this was a cultural issue” debate irrelevant to the bigger picture. As already revealed in the beginning of this post, I am here dealing with the argument of “equal worth” and “equal capacity/giftedness” in men and women. This is what is commonly referred to as egalitarianism.

Basically, the argument states that “since women are equally capable and equally gifted to teach and lead, then there is no reason why they should not be pastors.” Here is my contention. Are women able to teach? Yes. Are women able to lead? Yes, of course! Are women, more often than not, better teachers than men? Definitely! Are women arguably more intuitive and better able to multitask than men? Yes. So, should they be pastors and teach the church congregation on an official capacity based on their abilities? No. Why? Because God says so, or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, because the LAW says so:

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” [1 Corinthians 14:34]

As a child, I was perfectly able to go over to my friend’s and spend the night. I was perfectly able to skip eating my veggies and brushing my teeth. But my parents knew better. They had reasons that my childish reasoning capacity could comprehend, let alone accept. So I obeyed them. Yet, this is also where my analogy fails.

As an adult, I am now able to perceive the direct evil consequences that could have resulted from disobeying my parents’ instructions. A visit to the dentist is one very effective way of driving home the message. However, it is still more difficult to think of any good reason why a woman being a pastor would lead negative consequences. This is probably because many of us are wired to be consequentialists: We only categorise some actions as bad when we can clearly see the negative consequences of doing them.

This is why the reasons Paul often gives for why women should not teach seem strange, offensive even, to many of us. However, if our understanding of sin and morality is guided by the Bible, then we should be able to acknowledge that sin is not bad primarily because it hurts people, sin is bad because it is against God’s order and commands. In other words, sin hurts people because it is bad (and even when we cannot see how it hurts people, it is still bad because God said so). This is why some actions like my parents not letting me sleep at a friend’s house on a school night is good, even though it hurts me at the time.

Pain is a poor determinant of right and wrong.

So, when Paul, in 1 Timothy, says a woman should not assume authority over a man because “Adam was formed first, then Eve“, we are tempted to find another special reason for this command. It just doesn’t sit well with us. It just doesn’t seem like a strong enough justification for forbidding women to lead a congregation since “we can see all of the benefits and none of the losses” if they did.

EGALITARIANISM AND THE TRINITY

In conclusion, let us briefly look at the offices that men are commanded to hold and how qualified they are to do it. Consider this verse:

“I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” [1 Corinthians 11:3]

Keeping in mind the case laid out above, is there anything in the man that makes him intrinsically more capable and more fit to be the head of the house or the head of the woman? No. Then why don’t we oppose this passage using the same argument of consequentialism? Perhaps this argument  sounds less offensive because it appeals to the headship of God over Christ, and the headship of Christ over man.

Please, do not misunderstand me. I have sat under many a female “pastor” and gained truths about God that many male pastors could probably not have taught me better. I have listened to many sermons by women “pastors” that were solid and biblical and I gleaned treasures worth an eternal spot in my heart. Many of these women pastors are good friends of mine. Women indeed do make excellent teachers.

Yet, consider this: Can Christ do what God (the Father) can do? Yes. Does Christ know what God knows? Yes. Does Christ have all the attributes that God, the Father, has? Yes. So, should Christ play the role or serve in the office of the Father? No. Why? Because God says so. Because God has ordered (arranged) and ordered (commanded) it so!

May we learn to rest in God’s sovereign wisdom, even when we don’t get it.

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Did Gloria Muliro Steal Chris Tomlin’s Song?

Controversy seems to follow Gloria Muliro wherever she turns, like an unshakable stalker.

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The latest has to do with her song, Follow You. The singer has been accused of stealing/plagiarizing/sampling (whichever term seems most appropriate), not only the words, but also the tune to the chorus/verse from Chris Tomlin’s song, I Will Follow You.

Now, people will throw out accusations all the time at celebrities. What matters is whether those accusations are true, reasonable, justifiable or simply unfounded. What makes Gloria Muliro’s case even more noteworthy is the fact that she responded, by denying all charges of stealing/sampling/plagiarizing the song [both consciously or sub-consciously].

She further added that the contentious lyrics were inspired by the Bible and any similarity with Chris Tomlin’s song is purely coincidental.

It is this denial that makes her case worth examining, especially if you’ve listened to the two songs. Here are the links to the two songs: Gloria Muliro and Chris Tomlin. Give them a listen before you proceed. The first 30 seconds should do it.

Now, a few details concerning the controversy:

FIRST, the words in the contentious verse in both songs are [almost] exactly the same. The only difference is that Chris Tomlin uses the word “when” instead of “where” in the second to last part of the verse [underlined]:

Muliro: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, where you move I’ll move I’ll move, I will follow you”

Tomlin: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, when you move I’ll move, I will follow you”

SECONDLY, Gloria Muliro was recently interviewed by Buzz concerning the controversial song. This was her explanation for the apparent similarity between the songs:

Buzz: Okay, make us understand why you are accused of stealing the song ‘Follow You’ by American singer Chris Tomlin word by word.

Muliro: Let me make it very clear. My music is inspired by the Bible. The words in ‘Follow Me’ are in the book of Ruth 1:16. Check and you will see. If today I preach the sermon from John 3:16, that will not prevent somebody else to preach the same verse in Russia. We are all guided and inspired by the same Bible.

THIRDLY, if you’ve listened to the choruses in both songs, the tune is more or less the same. But I will leave that one up for the reader’s/listener’s determination. It could be that all songs sound the same to me. I’m a lyrics guy, after all  🙂

Anyway, my focus in bringing this controversy to light is not to determine whether Gloria Muliro did sample Chris Tomlin’s song (though I feel like that’s exactly what I’m doing). My major concern is in the way she responded to the accusations, considering her claim to be a Christian, and therefore expected to live (or at least speak) according to certain standards.

In the excerpt above, she told Buzz that the words in the song are in Ruth 1:16. This could be true. Ruth 1:16 says, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” However, the verse does not have the “where you move, I’ll move” part. I could be splitting hairs here, but it seems Gloria Muliro’s song has more in common with Chris Tomlin’s song than with the Bible (her alleged sole inspiration).

I have tried to give her the benefit of doubt. I have even considered what a friend suggested on Facebook, that this could be a case of Cryptomnesia (This is when “a forgotten memory returns without it being recognised as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original. It is a memory bias whereby a person may falsely recall generating a thought, an idea, a song, or a joke…” ) I was willing to grant that, but upon closer examination of the song, I realized that the similarities are too detailed to be merely incidental.

Some similarities in the internal message in both songs is striking. Yes, a person may sub-consciously sample a chorus and plagiarize a few lyrics, but is it possible for one to subconsciously translate those lyrics into Swahili? That seems a little bit hard to pull off.

In the first verse, Chris Tomlin says, “All your ways are good, All your ways are sure….” and in her first verse, Gloria Muliro says, “….Njia zako hakika (all your ways are good), Mambo yako sambamba (all your ways are sure)…” Maybe I am just cherry-picking lines to prove a point. So, let’s go all the way to the last verse and see what we can find there. In Chris Tomlin’s song, there are phrases such as, “…In you there’s joy, unending joy…” and in Gloria Muliro’s song, “…kuna upendo tele kwako (in you there’s unending joy), furaha kwako (in you there’s joy).” Is this still a coincidence inspired by the story of Ruth and Naomi? Maybe it is. Who knows? God works in mysterious ways.

But an even more important question is this, do you think those are sufficient reasons to make people think that Gloria stole/sampled Chris Tomlin’s song? I think they are. Gloria Muliro doesn’t seem to think so. When asked whether the accusations against her were unfounded, this was her disturbing response:

Buzz: So why would people think that you stole the song, in your opinion?

Muliro: People are just jealous of my success.

Dear Christian artistes, we are called to be above reproach. This does not necessarily mean that we will never fail or try to cover up our failures. It means that we should always be ready (and willing) to bring those failures to the cross. It doesn’t help anyone to keep holding onto our “righteousness” when it is clear before God and before men that there is reason and cause for repentance.

Christianity is not about never falling, it is about always rising up after the fall. Our faith is best displayed in our admission of our falleness (and in our proclamation of Christ’s sufficiency to forgive and raise us up again). No, the world will not be won by our outward cloaks of perfection and self-righteousness, it will be won by the display of our utter dependency, for therein lies the reality of the Gospel in our lives. We are all desperate beggars before God’s throne of grace.

It is my prayer that Gloria Muliro will come to the realization that Christian artistes are not saints misunderstood, but sinners forgiven.

Soli Deo Gloria